MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Although the Board of Health did not meet at last night’s Maplewood Township Committee meeting, it was the subject of discussion and action.

The Township Committee voted to formally create a Department of Health; previously, it was the Health Division in the Department of Community Services. The Department of Health will now directly report to the township administrator. 

A memorandum of agreement to share resources between the health departments of Maplewood and South Orange — for supporting efforts to combat COVID-19 locally — was also voted on and approved unanimously. Roger Desiderio, township attorney, explained that the MOA outlines that “to the extent reasonably allowed…the township health officer and the village health officer are directed to share health resources with the other for the betterment of the Maplewood-South Orange community.”

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The intent, Desiderio said, is mutual aid and support during the pandemic. “If there are excess services that we can provide or South Orange can provide and that there is a need for the other community, then the two health departments will in fact work together in that regard.”

The MOA also says that “should the sharing become disproportionate” in either town’s favor “then there will be a true up in terms of cost.”

South Orange, which has 526 cases of COVID-19 as of Jan. 18, is due to vote on the MOA at their next Board of Trustees meeting, Jan. 25.

Mayor Frank McGehee in his report to the committee mentioned that currently, the Township “has 869 residents who have tested positive for COVID and we've lost 31 lives. So 31 families in our community have been impacted too.”

He asked the community to “continue to wear your mask, continue to social distance. Please minimize or eliminate all indoor activity if you can. Let's work on it, let's work together. We know there's other new strains out there. We all want to get through this.”

He also reported that Essex County, through Jan. 18, has “vaccinated 16,908 people and over 430 were from Maplewood.”

He asked for the community’s patience in waiting for vaccine supply. “They're getting there, so just be patient.” He also recommended signing up to volunteer at the vaccine centers.

“We know there's COVID fatigue, but we just have to stay consistent and strong and patient. And it will be [that] we'll get through this.”

Deputy Mayor Dean Dafis, who also serves as the president of the Board of Health, said in his report the municipality has been “working tirelessly with the county and state officials to answer questions and to troubleshoot the technical logjams in scheduling appointments for folks who are eligible to be vaccinated right now.

“The county is performing little miracles every single day, considering the circumstances,” Dafis said. “Operationally and organizationally, it is a remarkable effort. But supply is an issue. Supply is not keeping up with demand.” He gave credit to County Executive Joe Divincenzo, who he said “is working really hard to increase our allocation so that we can get to people and have them vaccinated.” He also cautioned patience. “We will get to you. We will inform you. And it's going to all work out. We just all need to be a little bit patient and to dial it down a little bit, all of the emotions. We're going to get there.”




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