Lakewood Briefs

Lakewood COVID Case Numbers Continue to Rise

Lakewood’s recent trend of rising COVID case numbers jumped significantly over the past week, ending with a total of 370 reported cases, according to the Ocean County Health Department. The previous week’s total was 257, which was within the range of weekly case numbers over the past four weeks.

Along with rising cases, hospitalizations have also increased to an average of one per day over the past two weeks, according to Rabbi Yehudah Kaszirer, Executive Director of Lev Rochel Bikur Cholim of Lakewood. For most of November and December, hospitalizations in the town occurred at a rate of two to three per week.

Governor Murphy Visits Toms River for COVID Vaccine Rollout

Governor Phil Murphy visited Toms River last Wednesday as the first COVID vaccines were administered to health care staff at a clinic there.

“The healthcare heroes being vaccinated here today would not be receiving this vaccine fi they did not believe in its safety and its efficacy,” the governor said at the event. “Today, we are still a long way away from our ultimate victory,” Murphy said Wednesday. “But there is no question there is a light on the horizon in the form of these vaccines.”

Ocean County has received 1500 doses of the vaccine which health officials planned to give to frontline health care workers within a five day period.

The governor was joined at the event by Congressman Andy Kim, Department of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli, and Freeholder Director Joseph Vicari.

The next phase of vaccine distribution is slated to include other frontline essential workers and residents over 75 years of age. A date for that phase has not been set, and as the state has received fewer vaccines than initially promised by the federal government, the timeline might be delayed.

Last week, the first vaccines were administered to staff at Lakewood’s CHEMED Health Center, with its CEO Dr. Dovid Friedman receiving the first injection.

“While we expect the demand will be high, there is a process we are required to follow,” said the county’s Public Health Coordinator Daniel Regenye. “Hopefully the supply of vaccine will continue to increase quickly and distribution will do the same.”

Congressmen Smith and Kim Welcome Passage of COVID Relief Bill

Congressmen Chris Smith and Andy Kim were both part of the large majority that approved the long awaited COVID stimulus package.

After the passage of initial stages of financial relief in the CARES Act, Congress stalled for months as party leaders and the White House were unable to find common ground for additional funding.

After months of Republicans refusing to consider a Democrat bill and Democrats refused to consider Republican demands, a bi-partisan group of senators pushed passing a bill, albeit slimmer than Democrats had originally aimed for, and larger than Republicans had.

Rep. Smith is a member of the bi-partisan Problem Solvers Caucus which helped spark dialogue for negotiations and push through a final bill. He welcomed its passage.

“This long-overdue legislation has additional funding for COVID vaccine accessibility and distribution, money for schools so they can safely reopen, and another round of direct payments for Americans who have been hit the hardest during this pandemic,” said Rep. Smith,. “This relief bill also will extend the successful Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that has kept many small businesses afloat with desperately-needed relief, and will add deductibility for PPP expenses.”

Despite winning approval by wide margins after an agreement was made between Congressional leaders of both parties and representatives of the White House, President Donald Trump expressed disapproval of the $600 direct payment checks, asked for the amount to be set at $2000, as Democrats had initially asked for. That, and complaints from the President over foreign aid in the standard appropriations section led to a veto threat, but on Sunday evening the President signed the bill into law.

Following a note from Democratic Party leaders and President-Elect Joe Biden, Rep. Kim said that much more spending would be necessary to adequately address the crisis.

“I voted for this bill because our working families, frontline health care leaders, and small businesses need it, but it is woefully insufficient for the size of the crisis we face,” said Congressman Kim. “I’m glad that we’ll see additional support for our unemployed neighbors and funding to distribute vaccines, but that has to be the beginning of these efforts, not the end. We need an American Marshall Plan to expedite the shipment of vaccines and ensure the safe and equitable distribution of them. We need to work towards the goal of ensuring that no one is left homeless or without food on the table because of this crisis. And we need a historic investment in jobs and small business support to rebuild the main street businesses that define our communities.”