This Memorial Day, We Cannot Forget the Fallen

By Senator Vin Gopal

As holiday weekends go, Memorial Day is understandably a popular one. As the first three-day weekend with the warm weather of summer, a deep theme of national unity, and – especially important for our Jersey shore – the landmark opening of beaches and pools across our coast, it’s little surprise why “Memorial Day” has come to be synonymous with backyard barbecues, family reunions, and big waves on the beach.


This year, this holiday has taken on a bittersweet edge. Families across our state and country are separated, kept apart by a deadly virus. Summer businesses, from ice-cream parlors to boardwalk funnel cake stands to amusement parks, are shuttered and struggling to survive. And as our state gradually moves toward re-opening and recovery, many New Jerseyans, understandably, have come to see Memorial Day as a declaration of independence from this pandemic – a symbol of pride that a simple virus cannot keep the American people from sharing in the company of the people we love or enjoying the experiences we treasure.


I don’t begrudge anyone who is enjoying the re-opening of our beaches or an opportunity to celebrate, instead of mourn. As a lifelong resident of Monmouth County – there’s no doubting that this weekend has a special place in my heart. But at its core, Memorial Day is not a celebration of leisure, or even freedom. We celebrate our nation’s freedom on Independence Day, and the men and women who fight for it on Veterans Day.


Memorial Day is the day we remember the price of that freedom. It is a solemn ceremony in honor of the lives we have lost, and a sign of our gratitude and grief in memory of those fallen. Memorial Day is not a day of excess – it is a day of sacrifice, and in service toward respect, reverence, and patriotism, must be observed as such. Thank you to our veterans and God Bless you and your families.


Senator Vin Gopal represents the 11th Legislative District in Monmouth County and serves as Senate Majority Conference Leader and as Chairman of the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.


Statement from Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni

The arrival of the Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer. Our shore towns will swell with visitors from across the region looking for the fun, sun and relaxation – a long-standing, time-honored tradition in Monmouth County! Although we are all nostalgic for life ‘before’ COVID-19, please continue to be mindful of the restrictions that remain in place.

With many of the COVID-19 restrictions, it is a challenging time for business owners and patrons. The Governor’s Executive Orders 107 and 142 provide guidance on permissible business operations. Executive Order 107 allows ‘essential businesses’ to open, allowing patrons to enter the business premises with certain guidelines. Executive Order 142 allows non-essential businesses to open with “curbside pickup” of pre-ordered items. Business owners have likely have familiarized themselves with these restrictions on opening and operating. To be sure, it is no easy task to comply given the limited earnings season for many county businesses. I want to assure you that all of our law enforcement executives and officers in the community recognize the burden these changes have had on retail businesses, both operationally and as a result of lost income. Many of us have family members who own or work for businesses that are directly impacted.

Business owners and citizens alike must all adhere to the framework of guidance and Executive Orders (EO’s), as set forth by Governor Murphy. The EOs are laws that we must uphold. I understand that people have differing opinions regarding these restrictions and Orders and as Americans we have Constitutional rights to express our opinions. But our law enforcement officers are sworn to uphold these laws – even if they may personally not agree with them.

Law enforcement officers across Monmouth County have been working on the front lines each and every day during this pandemic, regardless of the risk of COVID-19 contraction, because of their sworn duty to uphold the law and protect County citizens. With that in mind, please remember that our first responders have a job to perform, and they will approach their mission devoid of prejudice and without second guessing the laws and rules created in response to the pandemic.

As a final note, I encourage everyone to remember the reason for this holiday weekend – to believe we help honor their memory by respecting our system of laws during this unprecedented time. Let’s all treat each other with respect and understand that our weariness and suffering with this virus are real and they affect everyone – whether by health, economics or both. When we stand and work together, we can achieve anything.

Pallone, Rose Introduce Bill to Help Homeless Veterans with Credit and Financial Counseling Services

Washington, DC – Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) and Congressman Max Rose (NY-11) today introduced the Homeless Veterans Credit Repair, Enhancement, and Debt Improvement for Tomorrow (CREDIT) Act to help end veteran homelessness and housing instability. Credit and financial counseling services remain a top ten unmet need for our nation’s homeless veterans.


The bill directs the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct a study of the effectiveness of credit and financial counseling services offered to homeless and housing unstable veterans. The study will explore these services and the barriers to them, including the COVID-19 pandemic and other health challenges. The study would provide recommendations for improvements to credit counseling services. The bill will also require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide an interim and final report to Congress on the findings of the study.


“During this time of economic uncertainty, it is important that we look out for our most vulnerable communities, including homeless and housing unstable veterans. We have a responsibility to help those who served in uniform and stood ready to make the ultimate sacrifice for our country. This bill will help address veteran homelessness by improving credit and financial counseling services offered to veterans,” Congressman Pallone said. “Our bill also directs the study to investigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on homeless veterans, so we have a better understanding of how to improve the services offered to our nation’s heroes. I thank Congressman Max Rose for his service and steadfast support of our veterans.”



“Veteran homelessness was already a crisis long before COVID-19 hit, and now that this virus has ravaged our economy, it’s only amplifying the need for credit and financial counseling to help veterans get back on their feet,” said Congressman Rose, who is a member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “This bill will help put us on a sustainable path towards keeping veterans out of debt and in their homes.”


The bill has been endorsed by the Department of New Jersey Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the Syracuse University Institute of Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), and the Wounded Warrior Project.


“On behalf of New Jersey military veterans, I thank Congressman Pallone for caring enough to produce legislation for some of our most vulnerable members in the Veteran Community. The Congressman has been a friend to New Jersey veterans for many years and we truly appreciate his efforts in this latest piece of legislation,” said Barbara Kim Hagemann, State Commander of New Jersey Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).


“To address housing needs in isolation is insufficient. In order to fully appreciate how to address such needs, a research-based approach to understand how financial and credit support can play a critical role in holistically supporting veterans experiencing homelessness is required. The Homeless Veterans CREDIT Act takes this approach,” said Nicholas J. Armstrong, Senior Director of Research and Analytics at the Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families.


Full bill text is available here. A section by section summary of the bill can be found here.

The importance of Contact Tracing to Reopening the Economy

By Vin Gopal, Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey

Contact tracing is a proven method of giving you the information you need to protect yourself and your family and it is a key element of the state’s plan to stop the spread of COVID-19 and reopen the economy.

This country has used contact tracers as an important part of stopping the spread of infectious diseases since the 1930s. You may remember hearing about contract tracing when it was successfully used to help stop the spread of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014. Health experts say that contact tracing when combined with testing is the most effective way of slowing the spread of the virus until there is a vaccine or a proven treatment.


Researchers in the U.K. found that combining isolation with manual contact tracing during the COVID-19 pandemic reduced the spread of the virus by 61 percent. So, we decided to take a deeper look at contact tracing to help Monmouth County residents decide whether they want to be part of this effort to break the transmission chain of the coronavirus. Here’s how it works.


When a person tests positive for COVID-19, the lab that tested them loads their test results onto the state’s secure epidemiological system. The state shares that information with the infected person’s local health department, which calls that person to determine their close contacts – people who were within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes, starting two days before the infected person began experiencing symptoms.


That’s when a contact tracer gets involved, reaching out to as many of an infected person’s close contacts as possible. The information you give a contact tracer is confidential. Both you and the person you came in contact with will remain anonymous. If a contact tracer calls you, they are calling to arm you with the knowledge and information that will empower you to make best decisions of how to yourself and your family. They can help with information about the virus, its symptoms and how to voluntarily self-quarantine.


Governor Phil Murphy has said he wants to build contact tracing teams that are “as local, as diverse, as representative of the folks that they’re phoning up or contacting,” and the state needs at least 1,000 more people and may need as many as 5,000 as testing increases and new cases of COVID-19 are detected.


If you’ve ever thought about being a detective, you may want to consider applying for a job as a contact tracer with the state Community Contact Tracing Corps and be part of the effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 in your community while helping speed up the reopening of our state’s economy.


Contact tracer jobs pay $20 to $25 an hour. If you want to learn more about becoming a contact tracer and playing an important role in protecting your community from the spread of COVID-19, you can visit the state’s COVID-19 Information Hub at to fill out a Contact Tracer Interest Registration. You can request a part-time or full-time position, or offer to volunteer. Tracers work between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. seven days a week, but no one will work more than 35 hours per week. The state provides free online training.


You also can find information about contact tracing and other resources for getting through the COVID-19 pandemic on our new website,, which we created as a tool to specifically help residents of our 11th Legislative District. If you live in one of our Legislative District 11 towns and are looking for assistance with other government programs or agencies, please submit a constituent services request form at and a member of our staff will contact you as soon as possible.


The state plans to increase testing to 20,000 people a day by the end of this month and to 25,000 by the end of June. Increased testing will raise the demand for contact tracers. You can play an important role in stemming the spread of the virus and moving our state closer to reopening by getting yourself tested and cooperating with the Community Contact Tracing Corps if they call.


Stay safe.

Monmouth County has 7,754 positive cases of COVID-19

FREEHOLD, NJ – Monmouth County Freeholder Director Thomas A. Arnone and Freeholder Deputy Director Susan M. Kiley have announced that, as of May 23, there are 30 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Monmouth County, bringing the total to 7,754.


The Freeholders remind residents that the Monmouth County parks and golf courses are open for the holiday weekend, including Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park, which is open for guarded swimming on weekends through June 7. Park buildings remain closed, with the exception of public restrooms. All park and golf course visitors are required to practice social distancing with anyone who is not a member of their household. For more detailed information, go to


The breakdown by municipality is as follows:


Aberdeen: 230

Allenhurst: 5

Allentown: 7

Asbury Park: 210

Atlantic Highlands: 30

Avon-by-the-Sea: 12

Belmar: 32

Bradley Beach: 44

Brielle: 29

Colts Neck: 75

Deal: 25

Eatontown: 262

Englishtown: 40

Fair Haven: 25

Farmingdale: 12

Freehold Borough: 377

Freehold Township: 623

Hazlet: 282

Highlands: 30

Holmdel: 243

Howell: 597

Interlaken: 4

Keansburg: 169

Keyport: 94

Lake Como: 16

Little Silver: 34

Loch Arbour: 1

Long Branch: 491

Manalapan: 446

Manasquan: 30

Marlboro: 429

Matawan: 175

Middletown: 651

Millstone Township: 82

Monmouth Beach: 20

Neptune City: 54

Neptune Township: 488

Ocean: 296

Oceanport: 58

Red Bank: 197

Roosevelt: 6

Rumson: 34

Sea Bright: 9

Sea Girt: 14

Shrewsbury Borough: 50

Shrewsbury Township: 9

Spring Lake: 15

Spring Lake Heights: 20

Tinton Falls: 190

Union Beach: 43

Upper Freehold: 53

Wall: 325

West Long Branch: 61


If you would like to read more Monmouth County news updates and information regarding the COVID-19 situation, go to

Porto Johns used for Memorial Day, restrooms to open May 28

Safety has been and will continue to be our number one priority. 

Porta Johns will be used Memorial Day weekend and will be located at many beach access points for visitor usage. These will be cleaned frequently and the single occupancy stalls will help ensure social distancing.

Starting next Thursday, May 28th, we will be opening our normal restrooms and comfort stations along the beachfront with signage indicating social distancing restrictions that are in effect.

We want our residents and visitors to know that we will keep the Porta Johns IN ADDITION to opening the restrooms, in order to reduce lines and have more options for visitors using our facilities.

We plan to continue to make modifications where necessary. We wish everyone a very happy (and safe) Memorial Day weekend.

West Long Branch Council, fireworks, taxes, fishing derby

By Walter J. O’Neill, Jr

West Long Branch – Borough resident Mark Engel asked the mayor and council during the virtual meeting on Tuesday night if the fireworks were still scheduled for  July 4th. Mayor Janet Tucci stated that at this time they have not canceled the show as they have a contract with a provider. She added that they will be having heavy discussions soon and will advise when a final decision is reached.

Governor Murphy had signed an executive order allowing municipalities the option to extend the grace period for second quarter tax payments from May 1,  to June 1, 2020. West Long Branch however, after careful consideration decided not to offer that relief to residents. Tucci stated that as of the meeting 90 percent of second quarter taxes were collected.

Councilman Stephen Bray reported that Monmouth County advised the borough that there is $183 million in stimulus money that will be provided to local municipalities to assist them with COVID-19 expenses. The money is part of the $2 trillion the U.S. Government has provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Bray said that the borough should move quickly to secure the funding because the money will disappear quickly as other communities will be applying for assistance.

For the fire and emergency services report, Councilman Steven Cioffi, reported that May 17-23 was National Emergency Medical Week, and he wanted to thank all the volunteers, past and present, who have provided first aid to the residents since 1931.

With a rash of car burglaries in West Long Branch and surrounding towns, Councilman Chris Neyhart strongly suggested that residents keep their cars locked. He also stated that the fishing derby will be postponed until October 17. The derby is part of a program called “Hooked on Fishing-Not on Drugs” run by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife.

It was also reported that trees that in need of removal have been taken down around borough hall and that the COVID glass protection is currently being installed in the borough offices. They are also getting a quote to install protection in the library. “We are part of the Monmouth County Library system, but the borough is responsible for the building,” Tucci said.  No date has been announced to the opening of the library.

Ordinance Number 0-20-7 to exceed the municipal budget appropriation limits and to establish a CAP bank was passed unanimously. Ordinance Number 0-20-8, a house clean proposal to tighten up the positions and duties of the borough administrator and borough clerk, was also passed without objection.

Vincent LaPore called in and asked the mayor and council if they are taking any action or have any plans on how to handle the residents of Deal, which according to him has the sixth highest amount of COVID-19 cases per-capita in the state. Cioffi started off answering the question saying they are not picking anyone out and many of those residents own their homes. “Every town is effected and more test mean more positive results,” said Cioffi.

Tucci stated that on Tuesday the borough had 59 positive cases and as of Wednesday that number increased to 61. “Our residents are vigilant, they wear masks and social distance,” said Tucci.

Stephanie Dollinger, Borough Administrator, told LaPore that West Long Branch receives guidance on how to handle the infection from the county, health departments and the state. There is no individual plan or protocol on dealing with neighboring communities.

Anthony Fontana then asked the governing body if they could look into the purchase of additional LED stop signs. Tucci stated that in Ocean they have one at Larchwood and Park Avenue and she thinks it a great idea, and they will explore it.


Legislators and Libraries Announce Survey on Residents’ Needs During COVID-19 Pandemic

Library leaders request community feedback on meeting residents’ needs through the use of libraries and library-provided resources.

OCEAN TOWNSHIP – A new survey seeking the input of New Jersey residents regarding the tools, programs, and services that would be most helpful during New Jersey’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic was announced today by Senator Vin Gopal and Assembly Members Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey.

Feedback from the survey, which is sponsored by the New Jersey Community Recovery Committee (NJCCRC), will be used to leverage the resources of New Jersey public libraries in order to meet residents’ needs and assist struggling families through these unprecedented times.

New Jersey residents can fill out the survey at

The NJ Civic Community Recovery Committee (NJCCRC) is a group of dedicated New Jersey library leaders whose mission is to work with stakeholders to create a new civic infrastructure that responds to this crisis with community-driven solutions. To accomplish this, NJCCRC is working to build templates for programs, tool-kits, and trainings for individual libraries and stakeholders to adapt and implement across the state.

Gopal, Houghtaling, and Downey are calling on all New Jersey residents, including front-line workers, unemployed workers, small business owners, students, veterans, parents, seniors, and individuals with disabilities to complete the survey to help coordinate communities’ responses to the ongoing crisis.

Potential services that may be expanded as a result of this survey include access to household goods or food/meals, job training or financial literacy assistance, mental health services, resources for small businesses, transportation, legal aid, housing assistance or temporary shelters, or access to education resources or technology. These services would be offered at, by, or through public libraries under the direction of the NJCCRC.

“From recessions to natural disasters, libraries have a proven track record of assessing community needs and designing creative, strategic services to meet them,” said Tonya Garcia, Chair of the NJCCRC and Director of the Long Branch Free Public Library. “We are honored to lead an effort designed to bring both stakeholders and community members together as part of the recovery process.”

“We want to hear your voices on what you need, the challenges you’re facing, and what we can do to help as we work toward recovering and adjusting to the new normal,” said Senator Gopal (D-Long Branch). “Thank you to all of the public libraries who are working hard to serve residents in need during this crisis, just as they always have.”

“Libraries are some of the most trusted institutions in our communities, and play a key role in social and workforce development programs throughout our state,” said Assemblyman Houghtaling (D-Neptune). “That’s why we want to empower them to deliver innovative new services and training to where they’re needed most.”

“These are unprecedented times, but the public servants who help our libraries operate are dedicated and passionate about meeting the most critical needs of our community,” said Assemblywoman Downey (D-Freehold), who serves as Assembly Chair of Human Services. “Thank you to all who are able to respond to this survey and guide us as we work to improve your access to programs that can help.”

Senator Vin Gopal and Assembly Members Eric Houghtaling & Joann Downey represent New Jersey’s 11th Legislative District in the State Senate and Assembly, where they work to make the Garden State more affordable for its hard-working residents. The 11th District includes the Monmouth County municipalities of Allenhurst, Asbury Park, Colts Neck, Deal, Eatontown, Freehold Borough, Freehold Township, Interlaken, Loch Arbour, Long Branch, Neptune City, Neptune, Ocean Township, Red Bank, Shrewsbury Borough, Shrewsbury Township, Tinton Falls and West Long Branch.

DIY Face Mask – How to Make a Face Mask

April 23, 2020 by

No matter where you live, you’re living through a pandemic. As Covid-19 continues to spread, you’ve probably been spending a lot more time at home. This could be the perfect opportunity to deep clean your home, finish some projects from your to-do list, or really invest in your garden. This is also a great time to pull out your sewing machine and make yourself a face mask. This way, when you do need to go out to buy groceries or get some fresh air, you can give yourself an extra layer of protection.

These masks are non-medical. However, they can at least stop you from touching your face – spreading germs from your hands to your nose or mouth is one of the easiest ways you can potentially catch the virus. In fact, while recognizing that these are not surgical masks, the CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings.

Here are a few tips on how to get the best use out of a do-it-yourself face mask, followed by five tutorials on how to make your own mask. I’ve included several options, including two that don’t require any sewing and can be made with material you already have at home.

DIY Face Mask Tips

  1. Wash your hands! You’ve probably heard these three words a million times over the past couple of months, but they’re important. Wash your hands well with soap and warm water before putting on your mask.
  2. Don’t touch your face. Masks are great because they help remind you not to touch your face while you’re out. But that also means you shouldn’t be fidgeting with the mask or taking it on and off while you’re in public.
  3. Wash your mask. When you get home, you should wash your mask before wearing it again. For the masks included in this guide, you can wash them by putting them through the washer with warm water.
  4. Use layers. The most effective masks are the ones with more than one layer of fabric. While I included some simple mask tutorials, it’s always better to use one of the multi-layered masks if possible.
  5. Make sure you can breathe. While it is important to have many layers, you also don’t want so many layers that breathing becomes difficult. Hold the fabric against your face before making the mask to make sure you can breathe.
  6. Don’t use it on young children. If you have children two or under, they shouldn’t wear masks since it might cause breathing difficulty. It’s best to leave your children at home when you go out if you can.

5 Types of DIY Face Mask

Cloth DIY Face Mask Model 1 (Sewing)

  1. Cut out two rectangles of fabric that are ten inches by six inches.

Having two layers of cloth increases the effectiveness of the mask in preventing the spread of germs.

2. Cut out four one-inch strips of fabric ten inches long.

3. Stack the two rectangles together, and fold over the long edges about a quarter of an inch. Sew these edges down.
Use pins to hold down the edges while you sew.
4. Sew the shorter edges, creating half-inch folds along the edge.

The more folds you can manage for this stage the better. The folds will help tighten the mask so that it covers your nose and mouth better.
Here’s how the mask should look once you’ve sewed over the folds.

5. Now take the strips of fabric and fold them in half so that each is about a half-inch wide. Sew these together.
You can skip this step and instead use elastic bands, shoelaces, or even hair ties.

6. Finally, sew each strip to the mask. Attach the strips to the four corners of the mask.
I discovered while sewing that it works best to attach the straps right at the corners instead of in the middle of the mask.

7. Put the mask on and secure by tying the strips together behind your head.
As you can see, this mask doesn’t stay neatly around my nose. This is why I decided to try the second method listed below.

Cloth DIY Face Mask Model 2 (Sewing)

1. Cut out two rectangles of fabric, ten by six inches.
You can use any fabric around your home for this, though you want to make sure there are no large holes and that it is easy to breathe through it.

2. Cut out four strips of fabric twelve inches long and one and a half inches wide.
The strips will help you tie the mask around your face. You want them thin, but wide enough to fold and prevent fraying.

3. Fold the edges of the thin strips down, then fold in half and sew a line down the middle. This will prevent fraying.
Pins will hold the folds in place while you begin sewing.
Try to sew in a straight line right down the middle of the folded cloth.

4. Sew the two rectangles together, with the patterned side facing in. Leave a one inch gap on one edge.
Don’t sew the entire rectangle or else you won’t be able to turn it right-side-out again.

5. Pushing the fabric through the gap, turn the face mask inside-out so the patterned side is showing.

6. Attach the strips to each corner and sew them on, making sure to secure them well. You may want to go over the corner stitching a couple times. (You can also sew the straps on to the patterned side of one rectangle before sewing the two together.)
Although I attempted to attach my straps first, it’s much easier to attach the straps at this stage, once the two rectangles have already been sewed together.

7. Place the mask on a flat surface and make two or three folds from top to bottom. Secure these with pins and sew along the shorter edge.
The folding can feel intimidating. If you’re having trouble, starting with only two folds instead of three will be easier to manage.

8. Finish the mask by sewing a border around the entire mask.

9. Tie the straps behind your head to secure the mask.
Functional and fashionable. Just make sure it fits well and doesn’t leave a large gap around your nose.

T-Shirt DIY Face Mask (No Sewing)

1. Cut off the bottom of a t-shirt. Cut seven or eight inches up from the bottom edge.
Got an old T-Shirt you don’t mind getting rid of? Perfect! You’ve got the material for a no-sew face mask.

2. Cut out a rectangle from one end of the t-shirt. Leave one inch strips on the top and bottom, and leave about seven inches of fabric on the other end.
Starting at one end, cut out a rectangle so all you have left is a 7” square and 1” straps.
Here’s what your cuts should look like once you’ve unfolded.

3. Use this remaining fabric to cover your face, and secure by tying the one inch strips behind your head.

4. The t-shirt fabric may be bigger than your face, but use the extra fabric to create folds for extra protection.
You can use excess fabric to create folds and adjust the fabric more tightly around your face.

Bandana DIY Face Mask (No Sewing)

1. Lay bandana (or square cloth, such as kitchen towel or t-shirt fabric) flat.
Any square of fabric will work for this easy no-sew face mask.

2. Fold twice from the top and bottom so the ends meet in the middle of the fabric.
This double-fold system adds extra layers of protection and some flexibility to the mask.

3. Slide the hair ties or rubber bands over the ends, about a quarter of the way.
Hair ties are perfect for this mask, though you want ones with enough stretch that they won’t hurt your ears.

4. Fold the ends toward the middle, over the bands.
This fold can be a little tricky. You want to tuck in the corners as you fold so that you don’t have fabric brushing against your face and chin while you wear this.

5. Put the mask on, placing the folded side against your face. Secure by stretching the bands over your ears.
Though this doesn’t have the same look and longevity of a sewn mask, it’s still functional for preventing the spread of germs and it’s super easy to make!