City looks at coronavirus: ‘The flu on steroids’

By Neil Schulman

Long Branch — On Wednesday, March 11, when there were only two confirmed cases of coronavirus in Monmouth County and none in Long Branch, Sidney Johnson, Long Branch Health Commissioner, gave an update on the situation at the Long Branch Council Meeting.

Coronavirus is a serious risk, Johnson said, especially for the elderly, but there are steps people can take to minimize these risks.

“We’re very fortunate in Long Branch to have a health department here in the city,” said Mayor John Pallone. He noted that Johnson had more than 30 years experience, and that the city was “taking every proactive step we can to be prepared.”

Johnson noted that earlier in the day the World Health Organization had declared Covid-19 was a pandemic.

The symptoms and effects of coronavirus can be severe, he said. “It’s not the flu; it’s the flu on steroids.”

It’s also ten times deadlier than the flu.

This is a “novel virus,” meaning it’s new — and nobody had built in immunities.

“All people are susceptible Nobody has any immune antibodies built up,” Johnson said.

Health experts believe it is spread the same with the flu is, through person to person contact. It may also be spread through contacting a surface which has the virus. Whatever the method, it spreads quickly.

“Health experts tell us we should proceed with the assumption the virus will spread more rapidly around the world.”

Symptoms of infection include fever, a persistent cough and shortness of breath. If you show symptoms, officials ask you to stay home.

Since these are common symptoms, tests are required to confirm if a person has coronavirus or something else.

“Testing, unfortunately, is a little limited right now,” Johnson said; for every person who’s actually sick and needs to be tested, there are probably 10 people who are just worried and want to be tested.

Unfortunately, it appears that things can “go south very quickly” with the disease. If something seriously happens, people should go to an emergency room. But it’s best to contact the hospital in advance if possible so they can take precautions.

Everyone could contract it, but the virus seems to cause the most serious problems among the elderly and those with existing health problems such as asthma.

Some of the best advice to preventing the spread is what you learned in childhood, Johnson said.

‘Wash your hands, like your mother told you,” he said.

Officials also recommend sanitizing surfaces, and practicing social distancing, and those who may have come in contacted with someone infected are asked to practice voluntary quarantines.

The WHO has been encouraging “Do The Five.”

• Hands: Wash them often

• Elbow: Cough into them

• Face: Don’t touch it.

• Feet: Stay more than 3 feet apart.

• Feel: Feel sick? Stay home.

Johnson did warn that nobody was certain what would happen with the virus.

“Italy is a modern country. It’s completely shut down,” he said, adding it’s not clear what will happen in America.

“We haven’t done this in the U.S. for a long time. Maybe the flu epidemic of 1918,” he said.

Johnson’s full remarks are available at in a video, shown below.

Resources for dealing with this unprecedented time

A message from Thomas A. Arnone, Monmouth County Freeholder Director

In this unprecedented time of uncertainty, as we are all dealing with COVID-19, we wanted to let each and every one of you know that we are working around the clock to respond to and mitigate this developing situation.

Most of our day is spent on the phone or in meetings with County Administration, Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden, State and local officials, hospitals, emergency services responders and even small business owners who are all feeling the effects of this health pandemic.

We would like to share the website established by the State to provide guidance for businesses impacted by COVID-19. That website is cv.business.nj.gov.

Please know that we are trying to get information out to you as quickly as possible, but this is proving to be difficult when the numbers and regulations are constantly changing.

Last Friday, we held a press conference to update the public on the need to restrict public access to County buildings and announce the establishment of a County hotline for general questions about COVID-19 and mental health support through crisis counselors.

Every step we are taking is being done with the best interests of our residents in mind and we will put out information as soon as it is available.

We know that you are receiving a lot of information from many different sources, but it is more important than ever to make sure that you are getting information from reliable sources.

The best sites for accurate COVID-19 information are the Centers for Disease control www.cdc.gov and the New Jersey Department of Health www.nj.gov/health.

At the County, we have had to postpone and cancel several events and programs. We are constantly updating the list of County events and programs affected by the COVID-19 situation on www.visitmonmouth.com.

We will continue to work tirelessly on behalf of the residents of Monmouth County and we encourage everyone to do their part by practicing social distancing, staying home when sick and covering their coughs and sneezes.

We will get through this together.

Sincerely,

Thomas A. Arnone

Freeholder Director

 

Coronavirus: Stay informed – stay safe

Assembly Members Eric Houghtaling & Joann Downey

Information is power when it comes to protecting yourself and your family from the spread of the coronavirus (also known as COVID-19). To empower our residents, we have collected resources and information regarding COVID-19 to keep you and your family up-to-date on the situation in New Jersey.

First, NJBPU has confirmed that, in cooperation with our utility companies, all utility shut-off orders have been voluntarily and universally suspended for the time being.

Next, all Motor Vehicle Commission agencies and road testing facilities will be closed until March 30. As such, all residents who have a driver’s license, auto registration, or vehicle inspection is due for renewal by May 31 will receive an automatic two-month extension. For example, if you have an April 30 expiration date, you now have until June 30.

As we are sure you know, Governor Phil Murphy declared a State of Emergency to strengthen New Jersey’s ability to contain and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, triggering a price-gouging ban, expediting the delivery of necessary goods and services, and empowering State agencies to address this public health hazard. Meanwhile, the CDC called upon residents and organizations to cancel all public gatherings of 50 people or more for at least the next eight weeks in order to reduce exposure.

Practicing social distancing – avoiding crowds and keeping a safe distance of at least six feet when talking to people – will reduce your exposure.

If you think you have COVID-19, stay home and call your primary care provider for advice. New Jersey has waived consumer cost-sharing for all medically necessary COVID-19 testing and services related to testing, and it is vital that any person who believes they may be sick with COVID-19 be tested in order to limit this virus’ spread.

If you suspect you are sick with COVID-19, please stay home. Avoid public areas and public transportation, including ride-sharing or taxis. As much as possible, stay in a specific room and away from other people in your home. Also, if possible, use a separate bathroom. Patients with confirmed COVID-19 should remain home until the risk of transmitting the virus to others is low and they are told by a healthcare professional it is alright to go out. If you have a medical appointment, call ahead and tell your healthcare provider you have or may have COVID-19. This will help their office take steps to keep other people from getting infected or exposed.

If you have general questions about COVID-19, you can call the New Jersey Department of Health’s public call line at 1-800-222-1222; however, if you are using an out-of-state cell phone, you should use 1-800-962-1253 instead.

Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Census Bureau is continuing to mail forms for the 2020 Census. The census is vital for determining New Jersey’s representation in Congress as well as federal funding and other resources for our schools, health clinics, fire departments, infrastructure, and many other critical programs. You can learn more and complete the census online at www.2020census.gov.

To avoid exposure to COVID-19 in crowded polling places, you also can apply online for an absentee ballot to vote in New Jersey’s 2020 primary. Please consider voting by mail to ensure that your voice is heard at the polls. New Jersey residents can learn more and print an application for a vote-by-mail ballot online at njelections.org.

While we have closed our Legislative District 11 offices until at least March 31 as a precaution, our staff continues to work remotely and will do their best to respond to your emails and phone messages as soon as possible. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to email us at AsmHoughtaling@njleg.org or AswDowney@njleg.org and follow us at @NJDistrict11 on Facebook for day-to-day updates and information. You can also contact our office by phone at (732) 695-3371.

By staying informed, remaining calm and following the advice of medical and health professionals, we will get through the COVID-19 health emergency. If you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

Together, we will get through this.

 

 

 

Mayor Pallone on actions taken during pandemic

Long Branch — On Tuesday, Mayor John Pallone summarized actions that have by taken by the City of Long Branch in the recent days to ensure the safety of the residents.

Mayor John Pallone (Link News file photo)

“The Governor has issued an emergency declaration that impacts businesses and services throughout the state. In addition, we have taken certain actions in Long Branch in regards to public buildings and services,” Mayor Pallone stated.

City Hall is closed to the public but employees are working in the building and are available by phone (732-222-7000) and can be contacted through the city website (a full list is available here). Residents can do transactions by mail or through secure drop boxes outside City Hall.

“Our employees are ready and available to help how ever they can,” Pallone said.

“We are one of the very few towns that have our own Health Department. We encourage residents to call the Health Department with any questions or concerns they may have, at 732-571-5665,” Pallone said.

“Long Branch is also fortunate that we have a major hospital located here in our city. We also have a community health center on Broadway. Our Long Branch Health Department is working closely with the community health center, hospital, and our public health providers on this evolving pandemic,” Pallone stated.

The main library on Broadway, Elberon library, and Senior Center are closed until further notice. Recreation and other public programs have been cancelled. However, garbage and recycling services will continue as usual.

The City of Long Branch encourages residents to go to www.cdc.gov to learn about any precautions you should be taking. For specific questions, residents should call the 24/7 hotline at 1-800-222-1222.

Long Branch has a new and improved system for keeping in touch with our residents. It is called Alert Long Branch and the service is being provided by smart911. Please go to www.longbranch.org/alerts to sign up to receive pertinent information with alerts. The City highly recommends that residents sign up for these alerts as this will be quickest and most up to date way for residents to receive information.

 

Schools, city hall, police provide services – from a distance

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.

• Eatontown’s Borough Hall can be reached at 732-389-7600 or eatontownnj.com

• Monmouth Beach Borough Hall’s can be reached at 732-229-2204 or monmouthbeach.org.

• 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.

Schools closed

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.

 

Governor: ‘aggressive social distancing’ orders needed

The following article appeared in the March 19, 2020 print edition of The Link News. Since then some of the precautionary measures have been strengthened.

On Monday, Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order No. 104, implementing aggressive social distancing measures to mitigate further spread of COVID-19 in New Jersey.

Among the directives, Governor Murphy’s Executive Order indefinitely closes all public and private preschool, elementary and secondary schools, and institutions of higher education, as well as closes all casinos, racetracks, gyms, movie theaters, and performing arts centers.

The order also mandates that all non-essential retail, recreational, and entertainment businesses must cease daily operations from 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. All restaurant establishments, with or without a liquor license, are limited to offering only delivery and/or take out-services only, both during daytime hours and after 8 p.m.

“In order to slow the spread of COVID-19, we must take aggressive and direct social distancing action to curtail non-essential activities in the state,” said Governor Murphy. “Our paramount priority is to ‘flatten the curve’ of new cases, so we do not overwhelm our health care system and overload our health care professionals who are on the frontlines of the response. My Administration continues to work closely with our communities, stakeholders, union representatives, and business leaders to ensure that we all do our part to win the fight against the novel coronavirus and emerge stronger than ever.”

In order to slow the spread of COVID-19, Governor Murphy’s executive order directs:

  • All gatherings of persons in the State of New Jersey shall be limited to 50 persons or fewer, with limited exceptions;
  • All public, private, and parochial preschool programs, and elementary and secondary schools, including charter and renaissance schools, were closed beginning on Wednesday, March 18, 2020, and remain closed as long as the Order remains in effect;
  • Institutions of higher education ceased all in-person instruction beginning on Wednesday, March 18, and shall cease such in-person instruction as long as the Order remains in effect;
  • The Commissioner of Education shall continue working with each public, private, and parochial school to ensure students are able to continue their education through appropriate home instruction
  • The Secretary of Agriculture and the Commissioner of Education shall take all necessary actions to ensure all students eligible for free or reduced meals will continue to receive the services necessary to meet nutritional needs during closures;
  • All casinos, concert venues, nightclubs, racetracks, gyms, fitness centers and classes, movie theaters, and performing arts centers will be closed to the public beginning on Monday, March 16, at 8:00 p.m. and remain closed as long as this Order remains in effect;
  • All other non-essential retail, recreational, and entertainment businesses must cease daily operations from 8:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m.; and
  • All restaurant establishments, with or without a liquor or limited brewery license, are limited to offering delivery and/or take out-services only.

“These are extraordinary times, and educators throughout the state have been taking extraordinary measures to create plans for high-quality home instruction, ensure food security for children who depend on free and reduced lunch, and provide services for all special needs students,” said Education Commissioner Lamont O. Repollet. “We understand that the closure can be a disruption for many parents, but we know nothing is more important than the safety of the 1.4 million children we serve.”

“We understand this is an unprecedented situation, and we are asking institutions to be extra vigilant in protecting the health and safety of their students, faculty, staff and the entire campus community. As institutions move to remote instruction, we urge them to ensure there are appropriate accommodations in place for students with disabilities, those who may not have access to internet services, and students who call their campus community home,” said Dr. Zakiya Smith Ellis, Secretary of Higher Education. “We continue collaborating with institutions to address concerns.”

 

Presumptive Positive Case of Covid-19 in Long Branch

Long Branch – Mayor John Pallone announced March 13 that today a 39-year-old male resident of Long Branch has tested presumptive positive for coronavirus COVID-19. The Long Branch Health Department has begun interviewing the patient and close contacts. It is not known at this time where the person may have contracted the virus. He presented to Monmouth Medical Center on March 9 and was evaluated. He has been hospitalized since that time. The US Centers for Disease Control will be verifying the presumptive test results reported by the NJ Department of Health laboratory.

The Long Branch Health Department is working closely with the NJ Department of Health, Monmouth Medical Center, long term care facilities and public health providers on this evolving epidemic. Mayor Pallone has been coordinating with all city departments, the Library, Senior Center and other community organizations.

The City continues to stress to the public to learn the symptoms of Covid-19 illness and take steps to stop the spread of this disease. If you become sick with a fever, persistent cough, difficulty breathing, you need to stay home and contact your doctor. Follow your healthcare provider’s advice and monitor the progression of your illness. If your health condition worsens seek medical attention.

The City of Long Branch encourages our residents to go to WWW.CDC.GOV to learn about any precautions you should be taking. For specific questions, residents should call the 24/7 hotline at 1-800-222-1222 or call our Health Department at 732-571-5665 during normal business hours.

Stay informed
Long Branch has a new system for keeping in touch with  residents. It is called Alert Long Branch and the service is being provided by smart911. Please go to www.longbranch.org/alerts to sign up to receive pertinent information with alerts. The City highly recommends that residents sign up for these alerts as this will be quickest and most up to date way for residents to receive information.

The City of Long Branch reminds residents to continue to check its website and social media as information will continue to come in.

Facing the Question

Are you changing your daily routine because of the Coronavirus?

Long Branch, Mon. Beach, Sea Bright get more replenishment

Long Branch – On Monday, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) announced additional beach replenishment projects in Long Branch, Sea Bright, and Monmouth Beach. Pallone said that additional federal dollars will allow for expanded work in these Monmouth County towns.

This work enhances replenishment projects begun last fall.

“I’m pleased to announce these additional replenishment projects that will be critical to our beaches and communities in Coastal Monmouth,” Congressman Pallone said. “Restoration projects like beach replenishment ensure our beautiful beaches will remain safe and enjoyable for residents and tourists for years to come. I would like to thank Colonel [Thomas] Asbery and the Army Corps of Engineers staff for their dedication to this important work.”

The Army Corps plans to do the work on the expanded projects in the fall of 2020 through spring 2021.

In Long Branch, sand will be placed in the northern part of Long Branch from south Broadway to Joline Avenue.

The additional replenishment projects in Sea Bright will begin at the southernmost border of Sea Bright near Sunrise Way and continue north to Island View Way. Another replenishment project will begin at Trade Winds Lane north to Sea Bright Borough Hall.

In Monmouth Beach, the additional beach replenishment project begins in the area around Cottage Road and continues to Monmouth Beach’s northern border.

The Congressman noted that the Army Corps should complete the original beach replenishment projects awarded last year in the Monmouth County Shore towns before the summer.

“The original project for Monmouth Beach from the Monmouth Beach Bathing Pavilion near Valentine Street north to Cottage Road was completed in January. The original Sea Bright project from Island View Way north to Tradewinds Lane was completed in February. The project in Long Branch originally awarded last year is expected to start and be completed between April and June 2020. This includes the area in West End from Howland Avenue south to Sycamore Avenue in Elberon,” Pallone said.

Following Superstorm Sandy, Congressman Pallone requested the Federal Emergency Management Agency allocate emergency funding to address immediate needs of impacted homeowners and businesses, as well as repair breached dunes and damaged beaches to protect New Jersey’s coastal areas from future flooding. As a result, the beaches from Sea Bright south to Manasquan were filled, which was the largest beach replenishment project ever undertaken by the Army Corps.

When outlining this project last year, Army Corps of Engineer officials said it was the first replenishment work along the Jersey Shore that was considered part of routine maintenance, rather than emergency replenishment as the result of the superstorm.

Beach replenishment projects are designed to protect properties from severe storms, with the added shoreline providing a buffer.

 

 

 

Board must review abatement bill before passage

By Neil Schulman

Long Branch — While a public hearing on an ordinance offering residents and small businesses tax abatements for improving their properties has been postponed until the middle of March, officials say that this is just due to procedural reasons, since they must wait for comments by the Planning Board.

At the Feb. 12 City Council meeting, officials introduced an ordinance which will allow people to apply for a five-year tax abatement on improvements to their properties.

Residents can receive up to a $25,000 abatement, and businesses up to $100,000.

For example, if a home was assessed at $400,000, and a resident made improvements that raised its assessment to $425,000, they could apply to the city’s tax offices to pay taxes as if their home was still assessed at $400,000.

A public hearing on the ordinance was scheduled for the Feb. 26 meeting, but had to be delayed.

The reason is that this abatement ordinance is being done in a way that involves Long Branch zoning law. Before any ordinance that involves zoning is passed, the council must hear input from the Planning Board.

Municipalities can only grant abatements in certain circumstances. One of those is if an area is declared in need of rehabilitation, as some of the redevelopment zones in the city have been.

The criteria for what constitutes an area in need of rehabilitation are fairly broad, including details such as the average age of buildings and infrastructure. This ordinance says that all of Long Branch’s zoning areas meets the criteria, so can receive these abatements.

The Planning Board had not had a chance to review the ordinance before the Feb. 26 meeting, so the public hearing and adoption was postponed until the March 25 meeting, so the board can examine and comment on it.