COVID-19 cases rise in county

UNION COUNTY, NJ — It’s been a rough week across the nation, as thousands of people in various states have no choice but to file for unemployment. Thousands are worried about financial stability as panic runs rampant and anxiety is at an all-time high. As of March 24, according to statistics from the state of New Jersey, the Garden State’s number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has risen to a jolting 3,675, with a death toll of 44.

New Jersey now has the second highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the nation, behind New York State, with a whopping 21,689 cases.

In Union County, the state is reporting 246 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus.
Union Mayor Michele Delisfort has issued an updated video for the residents of the township of Union, concerning coronavirus.

“There are 28 confirmed cases in the township of Union,” Delisfort said on March 23. “The governor said New Jersey schools may be closed for an extended period of time during the coronavirus outbreak. On Saturday, the governor issued a stay-at-home order to combat the spread of coronavirus, ordering nearly all of the state’s 9 million residents to stay at home and mandating that nonessential retail businesses be closed until further notice.”

Earlier on March 23, Gov. Phil Murphy had announced that New Jersey will release some low-level offenders from county jails. According to Union County Communications Director Sebastian D’Elia, 32 prisoners in Union County Jail were scheduled to be released March 24.

Over the weekend, there was more unsettling news from Union County. On March 21, an identified case of coronavirus was found within the Union High School community.

March 22 saw some positive news, as the U.S. Small Business Administration approved Murphy’s application for assistance and is now offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital up to $2 million to New Jersey small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of coronavirus response.

In Union County, beginning March 23, the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, in conjunction with governmental, educational and health care partners, opened the state’s first county-run, drive-through facility for COVID-19 testing, at Kean University.

According to a press release sent to LocalSource on March 21, testing is by appointment only; those seeking to get tested must be given a prescription and registered by their doctor through a secure portal, through which they will receive an appointment for the drive-through. This process is the only way to receive an appointment to be tested. For the safety, health and security of the volunteers at the site, patients without vehicles will not be allowed at the campus testing location, even with a valid prescription and appointment.

Union County wants its residents to know that emotional-support services are available to residents who are experiencing anxiety or stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If you need help, please do not hesitate to reach out to these community resources,” Union County Freeholder Chairman Alexander Mirabella said in a press release. “There are people ready to assist you with experienced, reliable sources.

“Union County has taken extraordinary measures to protect our residents and employees, and our first responders and other essential staff are working around-the-clock to fight against the spread of the virus,” Mirabella continued. “Everyone in Union County can join the battle and help ‘flatten the curve’ by working together to shield each other from exposure.”

In Cranford, there are now 19 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and, in Westfield, there are 13 confirmed cases. The Westfield Regional Health Department has informed the city of Summit of four new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Summit.
According to Summit Chief Communications Officer Amy Cairns, who spoke to LocalSource, two of those four new cases in Summit, a 49-year-old male resident and a 51-year-old resident, are both recovering in their homes.

Meanwhile, children and teenagers across the Garden State are out of school; online learning is being utilized to fill the education gap for the time being. In Roselle, the public schools were looking for the parents’ input via a digital learning survey. The survey, which closed March 23, was launched in order to help the district identify each student’s digital experience at home.

“We are looking to assess the needs of the entire school district through this survey,” Roselle Assistant Superintendent of Schools Lissette Gonzalez-Perez said. “We want to hear from you to help improve home instruction and identify online resources that we can use to maximize each student’s educational experience at home. The results of this survey will help the district better serve all students academically.”

Additionally, Roselle interim Superintendent of Schools James Baker commented that the district is looking forward to reviewing everyone’s feedback to ensure a better outcome.

“The district is seeking important feedback from each and every household so we can gauge the individual needs of our students,” Baker said. “We are eager to review everyone’s feedback in the upcoming days to see how we can use technology for home instruction to ensure unified, seamless instruction.”

In Trenton, the New Jersey Assembly is helping families stay in their homes during times of crisis, such as this public health emergency, through a measure prohibiting residential tenant eviction and eviction due to residential foreclosure during certain emergency circumstances. The bill was signed into law by the governor on March 19.

According to the press release, the General Assembly recently approved the legislation, 60–0–5.
The bill would provide that, whenever the state is in a public health emergency or state of emergency, or both, the governor may issue an executive order declaring that lessees, tenants, homeowners or any other persons cannot be removed from a residential property as the result of an eviction or foreclosure proceeding. The executive order would remain in effect for no longer than two months following the end of the public health emergency or state of emergency.
Both Assemblywoman Angela Knight and Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly said they must do everything they can to keep families safe and in their homes until further notice.

“It is unsettling to think a family could be evicted or asked to leave their home due to foreclosure proceedings at this time,” Knight and Wimberly said in a joint statement. “We must do everything we can to keep families safe and in a home until we get to the other side of this public crisis. We will get through this, New Jersey.”

Additionally, Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi commented that this situation should not cost you your home.
“This pandemic could have a serious impact on how many of our residents make a living,” said Schepisi. “Losing income because you are recovering from this illness or staying home because your child’s school is closed should not cost you your home. Together, we will get through this public health crisis.”