Cranford discusses COVID-19 precautions in meeting

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CRANFORD — Among the many topics discussed during Monday night’s Cranford Township Committee Workshop meeting via Facebook Live, one is clearly the most relevant today. Committee members welcomed guest speaker Lt. Matthew Lubin, emergency management coordinator of the Cranford Fire Department, who spoke regarding the public health crisis of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Lubin was able to break down a plethora of topics concerning the coronavirus and what the public should be doing to remain safe.

“Cranford is well equipped to handle this unprecedented emergency,” Lubin said during the meeting on March 30. “The way we respond to this as a fire–police entity is the same way we respond to a heavy flu season. We have training and protective equipment, which are masks and gowns, to respond to these types of calls.

“We are prepared for the eventuality of our staff getting sick and not being able to report to work,” he continued. “If you see our members dressed in masks and gowns on the street responding to calls, don’t be alarmed by that. They’re just following the prescribed precautions of the CDC and the World Health Organization for first responders. It doesn’t mean there’s an outbreak in your area. It doesn’t mean you’re in danger. It’s just first responders taking an extra level of precaution. If there’s anything for you to be stressed about, you will be notified.”

Lubin also urged the public to remain calm and not panic.

“There’s no need to hoard groceries and excessively stock, but what we really need for you to do is stay calm, to ensure that there’s product on the shelves for everyone. Also, check on your neighbors,” he said.

Lubin also touched on the importance of residents’ mental health during this crisis.

“This is a public health crisis that we don’t want to see turn into a mental health crisis,” Lubin said. “Connect with family and friends with phone calls and video messaging. Try to maintain a regular routine, such as waking up the same time, going to bed the same time, etc. Don’t overconsume the news and social media. Overconsuming has the tendency to elevate people’s anxiety level.

“There are resources that the state has out for reliable information,” Lubin continued. “New Jersey has developed a clearing house of information devoted to COVID-19; is the best source for accurate and timely information. New Jersey is also providing a self-assessment tool, which is, for people who think they have been exposed or aren’t feeling well. It’ll tell you if you should get tested or not and provides you information about that.”

Lubin also updated the community about the new test center that was recently set up at Kean University.

“Union County test center at Kean University is open to Union County residents and first responders in Union County by appointment and prescription only,” Lubin said. “What the county has done today is that if residents don’t have a doctor and can’t get a prescription because they don’t have health care, residents can call this center and speak to a nurse who will go over your symptoms and tell you if you should be tested. If you should be tested, they’ll provide you with an appointment. The testing is completely free and drive-in only.”

Focused on the outbreak, Lubin described what day-to-day operations are like for himself and his fellow Cranford firefighters.

“What we’re doing in town, myself and my partners are making between six to eight conference calls a day with county, state, federal and nonprofit partners,” Lubin said. “We have a standing call every day with the mayor and the administrator. We have a standing call with the school superintendent, and we meet with our Public Safety Department heads bright and early to disseminate information. We are looking at this with a long-term horizon. This is going to be a long-term event.”

With that, Lubin assured the public that the community will get through this, as long as the community continues to practice the well-known safety precautions.

“I have no doubt that we are going to come out of this a stronger community, a more resilient community,” Lubin said. “But please, practice social distancing and wash your hands.”

At the end of the briefing, Commissioner Thomas Hannen Jr. asked what the town’s response means for citizens who have not been contacted by the health department.

Lubin explained that residents who have not been contacted have not been found to have been in close contact with anyone confirmed of having COVID-19.

“The health investigation entails looking at potential contacts, and they will be contacted by another health department or a doctor,” Lubin said. “The process in New Jersey is that they do a contact tracing, going back to when they believe they were infected and when they made those contacts.

“The number of investigations are increasing and a health investigation with someone that has been out in the community might take an entire day for these public health nurses, who are conducting them,” Lubin continued, explaining why it is so important to social distance as the number of cases rises. “When people are social distancing and they say, ‘Well, look, I’ve been home and I may have gone out, but I was six feet away from people,’ and there really isn’t an exposure, it frees up these resources. It’s very important why these social distancing procedures are in place.”

Lubin also assured the public that first responders are receiving many phone calls about residents failing to practice social distancing.

“We’re aware of where there’s issues regarding people in parks and businesses not following the social distancing protocols,” Lubin said. “The best thing we can do is remind people of those protocols.”