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Office of the Mayor - COVID-19 Update No. 9

APRIL 8, 2020 @ 2:00 pm             COVID-19 UPDATE NO. 9

 

Yesterday, via Executive Order No. 118, Governor Murphy closed all State Parks and Forests  and all County parks for the foreseeable future due to the fact that, as it says in the Order, “increased public usage is likely to encourage additional public interactions and gatherings at State Parks and Forests, as well as county parks, that are inconsistent with and threaten to undermine the State’s current social mitigation strategies.”  (Copies of all of the Governor’s COVID-19 related Executive Orders can be accessed from the Borough of Oceanport’s website.) Additionally, The National Park Service announced this morning that the Sandy Hook unit of Gateway National Recreation Area has been closed until further notice.

In Oceanport, our tennis courts, basketball courts and parks have remained open due to the fact that the vast majority of the users have been quite good about observing social distancing protocols. For the most part, families have been the predominant users of the Borough’s parks, tennis courts and basketball courts.  The few times there have been violations of the social distancing protocols in our parks and/or on our courts have been resolved swiftly without much of a problem.  The closures of the State, County and Federal parks, however, will increase the prospect that people from outside of Oceanport will seek out and use our recreational facilities.  This will, in turn, make it harder for Oceanport residents to continue to employ social distancing protocols and more difficult for our officials to enforce compliance.  The law, moreover, prohibits us from limiting the use of our parks and facilities to Oceanport residents.

Monmouth Beach and West Long Branch have closed their parks completely, while Little Silver and Fair Haven have opted to keep their parks open for passive use.  At present, after much discussion with Council Members and law enforcement, Oceanport’s tennis courts, basketball courts and parks will remain open to the general public.  We believe that it is important for our residents to be able to exercise and clear their minds as part of the overall social mitigation plan.  The psychological benefits associated with having access to these opportunities are not to be discounted and the fact that Oceanport’s residents have evidenced that they are willing to employ social distancing techniques as they use the recreational facilities makes it easier to justify the decision to allow them to remain open.

Right now, based upon my personal experience, I feel a lot safer in a park than I do in a supermarket. However, if we start to experience an uptick in the use of our tennis and basketball courts and that increased use makes it difficult for us to enforce social distancing protocols, we will close the tennis courts and basketball courts.  Similarly, if the use of our parks increases to the extent that social mitigation protocols cannot be observed or policed, we will close the parks. Indeed, over the past 24 hours we have explored the logistics necessary to close our courts or parks and stand ready to do so on a moment’s notice should closure be required. How people conduct themselves while using the parks over the next few days will determine their status. Rest assured, however, if the parks need to be closed, they will be closed.

 The COVID-19 crisis has had an unprecedented, profound impact on the way we live our lives. People we know are infected with the virus and many of those infected are enduring great physical suffering as they rehabilitate and recover. By now, we probably all know someone who has succumbed to the complications of the virus.  We need to remember what these people have gone through and are going through every time we venture out of the house and subject ourselves to contamination.  This virus does not discriminate and the scary part is that just because you are not showing symptoms doesn’t mean that you don’t have it or that you aren’t a carrier of it.  The insidious psychological impact (“Did I already have it? Am I going to get it? If I get it, will I know? What if I get sick?”)  that this unseen enemy has on those who are asymptomatic is tangible and the source of great anxiety.  Simply stated, while there may be some people who are physically immune to the virus, none of us are socially or psychologically immune to it.  This virus has changed the way we all live and the speed with which it has done so is remarkable, to say the least. 

Monmouth County has advised that the total number of positive test results in Oceanport over the past week are as follows: 4/2-14, 4/3-18, 4/4-19, 4/5-26, 4/6-31 and 4/7-30, but, as I have explained in previous updates, these positive test results are not reflective of the actual number of those suffering from the virus within Oceanport. By all of the latest, respected epidemiological projections, New Jersey is about to enter its peak as far as the spread of the virus and its impact on our medical facilities are concerned. The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has developed  a state by state projection tool that is updated constantly (https://covid19.healthdata.org/united-states-of-america/new-jersey) and provides a reasonable analysis of when New Jersey will experience its peak demand on hospital resources.  As of today, the model projects that we will be at peak demand by April 11th.  A week ago, they projected April 9th.  This is good news because the further along we can move the peak demand date, the better equipped our medical facilities should be to handle the demands placed upon them.  The social distancing techniques we have employed to date have somewhat lessened the spread of the virus and we must continue to employ these protocols for the foreseeable future. Of course, based upon the available data, we now have a tremendous shortage in hospital beds, ICU beds and ventilators, and these shortages will worsen as we approach our peak demand.  

Oceanport’s Police Department, volunteer Fire Department, volunteer First Aid Squad, Office of Emergency Management and Department of Public Works have been working the front lines of this crisis since day one and they will continue to protect the residents of the Borough of Oceanport until this crisis has passed. Our schoolteachers and administrators have also been working the front lines in concert with parents who have been pressed into duty as educators to ensure that our children are properly served while school buildings are closed.  Oceanport has residents who are doctors, nurses, orderlies and providers of other health services and they go to work every day knowing that they are putting themselves at risk for the betterment of society as a whole. 

But the most important member of our community, the person best equipped to protect you and others, the individual everybody in Oceanport needs to rely on as we navigate these horribly uncertain and uncharted waters is YOU.  Our collective ability to weather this storm is only as good as YOU are.  If YOU are not practicing proper social distancing protocols, if YOU are not exercising common sense, if YOU are putting yourself and others at risk, then the efforts of the people who are trying to protect YOU might be for naught. 

So, keep washing your hands, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, staying at home as much as possible and maintaining a safe distance from others when you are out in public.  It’s simple, really.  You just need to do it.

 

Jay Coffey

Mayor of Oceanport

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