By Neil Schulman
If you need to do business with any municipal agency, do it by phone or online.
Even police have announced that, due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, they are only contacting the public in person when necessary.
On Monday, Long Branch’s offices closed to the public for the foreseeable future.
“Beginning Monday, March 16, 2020, Long Branch offices will be CLOSED to the public to protect residents and employees and to help stop the spread of the Coronavirus. However, our staff will be available to assist you by phone or email,” said the city in a statement.
Information can be found online at www.longbranch.org, or by calling City Hall at 732-222-7000. (The website has a list of direct extensions.)
Other area towns have taken similar precautions.
• Ocean Township Town Hall can be reached at 732-531-5000 or www.oceantwp.org.
• Oceanport Borough Hall can be reached at 732-222-8221 or oceanportboro.com.
• West Long Branch Borough Hall can be reached at 732-229-1756 or www.westlongbranch.org.
Police respond in person less
In a statement from Long Branch Police Chief Jason Roebuck, he said that in order to help control the spread of COVID-19, police would be making changes to the way they operate. (Again, all police departments in the area have made essentially identical announcements; we’re just quoting one.)
“First, let me assure you that our dedication to protecting this community and its residents is as strong as ever and your safety will remain our top priority. On the advice of local and national health authorities, we too will be practicing social distancing when appropriate,” Roebuck said.
That means, when possible, police will take reports over the phone. This will be decided on a case by case basis.
If police must go out, they will practice social distancing. Other officials have noted that police will probably not shake hands or have unnecessary contact.
Roebuck said police would still be responding when appropriate.
“All our officers have been issued personal protective equipment and we have decontamination contractors on standby to disinfect police vehicles and/or buildings if the need arises. Our DPW is working around the clock to clean and re-clean surfaces that are in constant use. Officers are still being dispatched to all routine first aid calls, but will not contact the patient unless the call is urgent, there is a health emergency or for the safety of the responding EMS personnel. Do not be alarmed if you see officers wearing respirator masks or gloves, or speaking to you from a distance. The Long Branch Police cannot and will not be responsible for transmitting the disease further through the community as we perform our duties, and we also must safeguard ourselves. We cannot risk spreading the virus throughout the department, which could lead to large numbers of officers having to isolate themselves and not be available for duty. This would be extremely problematic for emergency services,” he said.
All schools in New Jersey are closed and will remain closed as long as Governor Phil Murphy’s Executive Order on the emergency remains in effect. Long Branch schools, which closed a couple of days before the governor’s order, had been scheduled to reopen April 20.
In Long Branch, to help make sure students still get a healthy lunch while schools are closed, Long Branch Public Schools food service has begun providing grab-and-go meals, which can be picked up for each child to take home at several sites around the city from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
They are preparing 11,000 meals a day.
The school has been working out details of distance learning.