Lakewood Briefs

Ocean County Health Department Establishes Office for Contact Tracing

In an effort to prepare for the coming stages of the COVID era, Ocean County Health Department (OCHD) established a unit to train and oversee contact tracing personnel.

“The OCHD COVID-19 response efforts continue to evolve as the pandemic itself is consistently evolving. We felt the institute was an important piece to serve the community by putting more personnel on our tracing task force to work cases with timely investigations that will ultimately mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and hopefully save lives as we move forward,” said Daniel Regenye, OCHD Public Health Coordinator/Health Officer.

The Disease Investigation/Contact Tracing Institute will work in partnership with Ocean County College and will work to develop staff and strategies to effectively monitor the contacts of those who test positive for the virus including ensuring safe, sustainable and effective quarantine options in an effort to stymie transmission.

“You need to think of this as a continuum,” said Jennifer Crawford, Supervising Field Rep Disease Control and the Senior Epidemiologist in the Communicable Disease unit. “As you test more residents, you identify more positives. The goal is to interview each of these newly diagnosed COVID positive residents. This interview identifies ‘contacts’ of newly identified individuals which will need to be quarantined for the duration of the incubation period in order to prevent further spread of the virus and most importantly protect those most vulnerable. This process requires extensive resources, and the Ocean County Health Department has built this Disease Investigator/ Contact Tracer Institute” to build this capacity and meet this challenge.”

A disease investigator is an employee of the Health Department who is the first point of contact with the newly diagnosed person which interviews them over the phone to learn more about their illness to mitigate future transmission.

A contract tracer works similarly to a detective. Trained staff interview people who have been diagnosed with a contagious disease to identify out who they may have recently been in contact with. If identified as a potential source of transmission, then limiting movement and encouraging quarantine is the best option to prevent spreading the disease any further.

As of last week, there had been more than 8,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ocean County since the beginning of the outbreak. As of last week, the numbers of new cases continued to trend downward.

Arrests made for Car Burglaries

Three people were arrested for a series of car burglaries that took place over several weeks in April and May.

Shadira Jones, 28, and Jeffrey Perez, 31, both of Lakewood, and Eugene Ware, 42, of Lacey Township were charged last Monday in connection to the crimes.

They have been charged with burglary and theft. Perez and Jones are also facing charges for using credit cards taken during the incidents.

The five burglaries took place at several locations all located in central Lakewood.

State Senators Ask Governor for Educational Re-Opening Timeline

Ocean County state senators Robert Singer, Samuel Thomson, and James Holzapfel joined a letter from the Republican caucus asking Governor Phil Murphy to outline plans for the re-opening of schools and summer camps.

The letter expressed general concern about what it identified as the “slow pace” of lifting restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COIVD, but focused on the need for educational facilities to have clear guidance as soon as possible.

“We are especially concerned by the lack of clear direction from the administration on expanding access to child care and the absence of communication about a plan, or even a timeline to expect a plan, for education to resume in some capacity at New Jersey’s public and private K-12 schools, colleges, and universities,” read the letter. “Similarly, we have heard from countless parents and day camp operators that they remain in limbo with no hint from your administration regarding the possibility that restrictions on camps will be lifted for this summer. Many of these facilities will require additional time to prepare, especially with new precautions necessary, should they be allowed to open. It is imperative that you clearly convey your intentions on this front immediately as some of these programs would normally begin operating just one month from now.”

The senators said that expanded child care options are necessary to allow for parents to be able to facilitate an economic re-opening.

“In the very short term, the child care needs of working parents must be addressed as more employers begin to reopen their offices, stores, and workplaces,” they wrote.

The open letter asks for the Governor to provide clear guidelines on conditions under which educational institutions will be permitted to offer in-person instruction, the needs of students with special learning requirements, how transportation, including busing, should be handled, and whether students will be allowed to live at residential schools and colleges, along with several other points.

“It must be acknowledged that our schools will need months to develop effective plans to serve students once they have received guidance on the aforementioned topics and other important issues of concern from the State,” they wrote. “We urge you to offer a timeline for this guidance or an actual plan prior to the end of the current academic year. This will ensure that schools can spend every day this summer preparing for the fall term.