Lakewood Briefs – January 17, 2021


COVID Cases Continue to Rise

Lakewood’s reported COVID case levels continue to rise more rapidly than over the past months. Last week ended with a total of 496 according to the Ocean County Health Department. The week prior reported 457.

After a resurgence of COVID infections that numbered around 1500 in September was brought under control, weekly case numbers were in the 100’s. Since then these figures had gone up by roughly 100 each month, but the last four weeks seems to show a more rapid acceleration. Over the past month, hospitalizations from the Orthodox community have increased as well, averaging around one per day.

Ocean County COVID Vaccine Appointments Run Out As Eligibility Broadened

As New Jersey opens its COVID vaccination program to a wider swath of the population, Ocean County plans to open an additional site to administer inoculations, but appointments remain difficult to get for many.

Last week, New Jersey opened eligibility for the vaccines up to those over 65 or with underlying medical conditions, but slots and available supply of the vaccines did not last long.

“We had 10,000 contacts within minutes after the announcement,” Ocean County Commissioner (formally Freeholder) Gerry P. Little, who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Health Department. “There were 25,000 appointments that already were made taking us to the end of February.”

The county Health Department is currently administering vaccines at the RWJ Barnabas Health Care arena in Toms River. The county will now add the Southern Regional Middle School in Manahawkin as an additional site. It is scheduled to be open only on Tuesdays and Shabbos.

So far, the Ocean County Health Department (OCHD) has distributed about 5,000 shots of the Moderna vaccine at the RWJ Barnabas Health Care arena in Toms River. In addition, the vaccine is available at some supermarkets in the County and some health care providers.

As of January 14, no appointments for the vaccine remained available through the health department. OCHD said that they had been told by the state and the federal government that more vaccines will be made available in the near future.

“We are averaging about 500 vaccinations a day at the arena at Toms River High School North and ramping up to give out 700 daily,” said Ocean County Public Health Coordinator Daniel Regenye. “We can do more so long as we have more staff and more vaccine. We are just awaiting a timeline for its arrival.”

Rep. Smith Bill Elevating Anti-Semitism Envoy Becomes Law

In his last week in office, outgoing President Donald Trump signed a bill drafted and championed by Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) elevating the State Department’s anti-Semitism envoy to ambassador status.

“The official rank of Ambassador comes with greater seniority and diplomatic access not only here in Washington, but equally important, overseas in dealing with foreign governments. In short, it gives the Special Envoy the clout required do the job more effectively,” said Rep. Smith.

The office of Special Envoy was created by legislation sponsored by Rep. Smith in 2004. The new law which not only changes the position’s title, but adds other conditions aimed at elevating its importance, such as a clause that the ambassador cannot be tasked with other formal assignments. It does not add any additional funding. The bill had 87 bipartisan co-sponsors.

The measure’s becoming law was praised by several Jewish community advocates.

“[Rep.] Smith has been a staunch fighter of global hate and bigotry for decades, and true advocate for human rights. The president’s signing of the bill is a welcome step in battling divisiveness and hate,” said Rabbi Yaakov Wenger, a member of the National Chaplains Association.

Rep. Smith Votes Against Impeachment

Rep. Chris Smith voted against the House of Representatives’ articles to impeach outgoing President Donald Trump for his alleged role in riots at the Capitol.

The bill which are set to trigger a Senate trial at some point after the Biden administration is in place, were quickly introduced last week, without hearings. Rep. Smith condemned the violence that occurred, but said that he could not support the impeachment measure.

“With just seven days remaining in his term, today’s highly partisan rush to impeach the President is being done without knowing the whole truth which takes time, effort and serious scrutiny to establish,” said Rep. Smith. “The fact that the U.S. Senate won’t even consider the impeachment resolution passed by the House until after the January 20th inauguration begs the question as to why the debate and vote isn’t postponed until we have all the facts.”

Rep. Smith added that all those involved in the riots should be prosecuted and drew attention to the fact that he a co-sponsor of a measure to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6th attack on the Capitol.

Rep. Kim Votes to Impeach President Trump

Congressman Andy Kim (D-NJ) joined the entire Democratic House caucus and ten Republicans in voting to send articles of impeachment against outgoing President Donald Trump to the Senate.

“After my vote today, I will go home and explain to my two boys why it was important to impeach the president,” he said in a statement. “It’s a conversation that parents across the country are having right now with their kids; explaining that when someone does something wrong and they violate their oath, there are consequences. It’s a conversation that reminds them that nobody, not even the President of the United States, is above the law. And it’s a conversation that reminds them that our country – the same one that gave their grandparents and parents a chance at a good life – is something worth protecting.