BARNEGAT, NJ - Yesterday, the Ocean County Health Department released information regarding three confirmed coronavirus cases within the township. According to Barnegat Mayor John Novak, the identity of the victims remains confidential. Novak confirmed that he does not know the names of those taken ill, but continues to pray for their recovery.
Novak has done his share of research regarding the pandemic that has just about everyone at home. Citing the New Jersey Department of Health, he pointed out, "COVID-19 is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus," he referenced. "Most cases of COVID-19 are mild to moderate, like the common cold. But it can be more severe in older adults and people with chronic health conditions. The virus is most likely to be spread from person to person by droplets when coughing and from contact with surfaces where those droplets have landed. Since this virus is new, health authorities continue to carefully watch how this virus spreads."
The Barnegat mayor also went on to quote from a New York Times article, which states that, "the pandemic is widening social and economic divisions that also make the virus deadlier, a self-reinforcing cycle that experts warn could have consequences for years to come."'
With that, Novak offered his own thoughts and some encouragement. "While the health risks of this virus must be taken seriously, our responses - as individuals and as a society are not without impacts on our daily lives as well. Isolation, separation and restrictions are the new, and hopefully very temporary, normal," he said.
Meanwhile, the Barnegat mayor also offered some insight from a biblical story that he says has relevance to the current state of affairs. Citing Leviticus 13:21, Novak explained that the priest was to inspect someone who had a disease and could "“isolate the affected person for seven days.” He would then re-examine them and could “isolate them for another seven days.” (Fourteen days total!) The diseased person was to“... live alone; they must live outside the camp.”
According to Novak, health officials have lead on the goals of containment and mitigation of the epidemic/pandemic while other layers of government carry out the policies advancing those goals while still maintaining as much of the normal life our society expects. These agendas present conflicting medical, scientific, financial and societal challenges that government, especially local governments face.
"Our Barnegat Township Police Department has a active social media presence and we have used that footprint to provide regularly updated information to the public following county-wide law enforcement briefings," Novak said. " Except venues such as New York City, Hoboken and the casinos of Atlantic City, which have unique circumstances requiring specialized local actions, the federal and state authorities are lead agencies; local governments sought and sporadically received guidance from them."
"This most recently culminated with the Governor's address Saturday afternoon and later a joint conference call/meeting of the Barnegat Governing body and key employees including the Township Administrator and Police Chief to discuss implementations of the Governor's directives," continued Novak.
Although Town Hall will not be open to the public for in-person business, municipal operations will be ongoing Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. with phones answered, correspondence, payments and associated administrative functions being processed.
With limited exceptions, all departments will be operational albeit with limited staff. Police, Fire, First Aid and Emergency Management will be fully operational while staff restrictions in Public Works as well as the Water & Sewer Department will focus on priority issues for the time being. Regular (not bulk or special) trash pick-up is conducted by a private sector contract vendor and is not affected by municipal restrictions.
The Barnegat Mayor reminded residents that this a fluid situation where changes in policies, procedures and functions occur swiftly and seemingly regularly.