Lakewood Briefs – January 24, 2021

LAKEWOOD -

Lakewood COVID Cases Remain High and New Variant Identified in County

Reported COVID cases in Lakewood remained relatively high last week at 406, but dropped off from the previous week which ended with 496, as the first confirmed cases of a variant suspected of being more contagious were first found in Ocean County.

Case numbers in Lakewood have risen steadily since the early fall as have hospitalizations. Last week, as of Thursday, at least 14 members of the town’s Orthodox community had been transported to hospitals to be treated for COVID symptoms.

Also last week, the first confirmed cases of a strain of the virus first found in England were discovered in in two tests Ocean County, one from a 60-year-old man and the other from a child. Scientists say that emerging evidence points to the variant being between 30 and 70 percent more contagious than the original strain and has also affected some expecting mothers more severely. It was suspected of having been present in the area for some time, but these two cases are the first confirmed instances.

According to CDC modeling, it is likely that the new strain will become dominant in the United States by the end of this winter.

COVID Vaccine Appointments in Short Supply in Ocean County

Ocean County’s effort to administer COVID vaccines continues to hit snags due to short supply and staffing according to a report by Shore Beat.

Last week, New Jersey opened vaccine eligibility to all individuals over 65 as well as to adults with a long list of underlying health conditions, making some additional 200,000 eligible. Within hours of the announcement, available appointments through the county’s health department were pushed into late February and then closed. As of early this week, neither the county, nor CHEMED health center and other individual locations offering the vaccine have any available appointments.

The county’s central distribution site is located at Toms River High School North. In anticipation of more doses, a Toms River Shop-Rite and Ocean Health Initiatives were made into vaccination sites as well.

The county was given a supply of 8,000 Moderna vaccinations by the state and as of last week a little more than half had been administered. Amid a high demand for nurses and other medical personnel due to the pandemic, county officials say that difficulty in finding sufficient staff is one impediment. Another additional hurdle for the Ocean County is its high senior citizen population. As such, a large section of residents have qualified for early distribution states.

Commissioner (formerly Freeholder) Gerry P. Little, who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Health Department, said that opening up more medical facilities as approved sites would help move the vaccine campaign along.

“It’s essential that the State of New Jersey – they also don’t have a massive supply – get it out to the hospitals so the hospitals can become clinics,” he was quoted as saying in the Shore Beat article. “The hospitals need to step up and serve the people, and then they need to go to the pharmacies, and every single doctor’s office.”

Shots fired on East 5th Street

The sound of gunshots on East 5th street likely led to a car crash this past Friday afternoon.

At around 3pm, several shorts were heard near the intersection of East 5th and School Gardens streets. A vehicle, not suspected to be involved in the firing but apparently spooked by the noise, crashed into a utility pole. No one was injured and the source of the shots was not identified.

A nearby public school was placed on a temporary lockdown, though most students had already left for the day.

Rep. Smith Pauses Twitter Account

Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) halted his Twitter account citing “security concerns” and desire “to help the district and Nation move toward unity during this difficult time” as his reasons.

The cancellation comes amid accusations that social media companies selectively censor and regulate conservative voices, failing to apply similar standards to other political actors. Rep. Smith made no mention of this in his statement announcing the cancellation.

According to reports, the congressman’s account became rife with virulent attacks following the riots on Capitol Hill and subsequent impeachment vote. Rep. Smith did not vote for impeachment, but in general was not a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump and is more aligned with the GOP’s more traditional conservative wing, and voted to certify the Electoral College results naming President Joseph Biden the victor.

“Divisive and hate-filled tweets have become far too frequent and impede the healing so needed today,” said the Congressman in a statement.

He did not give any indication as to if or when the account would be reactivated.