UNION COUNTY, NJ — Union County confirmed at least 15 cases of coronavirus as Gov. Phil Murphy activated the National Guard, shut down nonessential businesses and strongly discouraged travel after 8 p.m across the state.
As of March 17, New Jersey had 267 confirmed cases of coronavirus. The state’s death toll has risen to three.
As the number of cases continues to rise, Murphy urged residents to abide by a voluntary 8 p.m to 5 a.m. curfew.
He also mobilized the state National Guard to assist in “any way necessary,” such as passing out meals after schools close, helping with drive-through virus testing, reopening wings of hospitals and helping to convert buildings for quarantines if needed.
Casinos, gyms, racetracks and movie theaters across the state are closed until further notice.
Bars and restaurants are limited to takeout and delivery only.
Only essential stores, such as pharmacies, grocery stores, gas stations and medical offices, are allowed to stay open after 8 p.m.
The newly imposed statewide restrictions were mirrored by a cascade of closures and cancellations across Union County.
Union County’s 24th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade was canceled just days before its scheduled date of March 14.
“For the safety of families and those attending, we felt it was better to cancel this year’s parade,” said parade General Chairperson Jessica Cunningham. “We look forward to seeing everyone next year.”
Summit has closed all public facilities, including City Hall, the Municipal Transfer Station, Summit Community Center, athletic fields and playgrounds, until further notice.
“Do not schedule playdates, parties, sleepovers, or visits with other families,” said Summit Mayor Nora Radest in a message to residents. “This sounds extreme because it is. We are trying to create distance between family units and between individuals across family units. Even if you have one friend over, you are creating new links and new possibilities for the type of transmission that all our school, work, and public event closures are trying to prevent.”
In an effort to reduce the likelihood of exposure to COVID-19 virus, the Summit Police Department is accepting police reports by telephone only until further notice.
“The action is based on guidance and recommendations from health officials, and a priority to safeguard the health and well-being of the Summit community, police officers and civilian staff,” said the department in a March 13 press release.
Cranford has ordered all nonessential businesses, including retail businesses, restaurants, bars, salons, barbers, nail salons, gyms, spas and cafes to terminate public access.
Roselle public schools are closed through March 31.
According to a press release, schools will be continually cleaned and sanitized by maintenance staff during closure. Light maintenance, such as painting, may also take place.
Mayor Linda Karlovitch declared a state of emergency in Kenilworth on March 16, closing all municipal buildings until further notice.
Borough parks will remain open, though lavatory facilities will stay closed.
The borough’s municipal functions will continue daily between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., and the borough can still be reached via telephone and email.
Karlovitch encouraged residents to practice social distancing while still supporting small businesses by ordering takeout and delivery.
“It’s a very big economic impact for small businesses,” Karlovitch said in a March 13 interview with LocalSource. “If we can help that at all, I think it’s important that we do.”
Measures taken to combat the virus have resulted in unemployment and reduced work hours for many.
The United Way of Greater Union County has set up an emergency fund in an effort to help individuals financially affected by the virus due to loss of wages or incurred debt.
“There are thousands in Union County living paycheck to paycheck and are just one day from hunger and homelessness,” said James W. Horne, president and CEO of United Way Greater Union County, in a March 16 press release.
According to the press release, more than 57,000 people in Union County, including 11,000 children, are living below the poverty line.
Many living in economically disadvantaged communities are low-income, hourly wage earners without benefits such as paid time off.
“Emergency funding is crucial in ensuring that our community members with limited resources, or those who are not working, can keep food on the table, their lights on and pay housing costs,” said Aneesha Ghaly, executive director at Rahway Community Action Organization. “We are grateful to the United Way of Greater Union County for their support in helping our county in these unsettling times.”
Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick sponsored a bill in the New Jersey General Assembly that would make a supplemental appropriation of up to $20 million from the General Fund to the Department of Education.
According to a March 16 press release, the funds would be dispersed to public, charter and private schools that apply for aid to cover cleaning supplies and increased personnel costs.
“Now isn’t the time to leave people without the proper tools needed to combat this epidemic,” said Bramnick in the press release. “Sanitization is a necessary step in ensuring we slow the progression of COVID-19. We need to protect our residents and those working in public facilities by ensuring these facilities are carefully disinfected and completely sanitized. Preventing the spread of COVID-19 is vitally important, and working together we’ll face this situation head-on and make sure our residents are safeguarded.”
The bill passed in the Assembly 65–0.