BERNARDS TWP., NJ _ Wearing protective gear to help ward off exposure to COVID-19, Bernards Township police are still responding to first aid calls throughout the township as well as answering all other calls, a police department spokesman said on Friday, responding to a question from TAP Into Basking Ridge.

Police respond to all calls, and "generally get there before the first aid squads," police spokesman Lt. Jon Burger said on Friday. Police are taking precautionary measures when responding to calls, and  wearing protective gear, he said.

[Updated] However, Bernards Police Chief Michael Shimsky said that the professional Atlantic Healthcare Emergency Medical Service (EMS) service has been answering all calls where patients report COVID19-like symptoms. 

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The Atlantic Healthcare EMS, previously hired by the township to answer rescue squad calls during the week, have trained personnel with proper personal protective equipment, Shimsky said.

The decision to have the professional ambulance service answer potential COVID19 calls was put in place to limit exposure and workload to the township's volunteer squads, Shimsky said on Saturday. 

Police respond to EMS calls, but instructed not to make contact, chief says

While police to EMS calls, officers have been instructed not to make contact unless situation is deemed life threatening and intervention is necessary, the chief added.

"All police officers have also been supplied with personal protective equipment to include mask, down, gloves and goggles." Shimsky said.

The type of all of the calls received by the department will determine on the number of officers that show up, Burger said.

However, during a statewide lockdown to help contain spread of the virus, police headquarters at 1 Collyer Lane is closed to the public, and the department is asking the public to contact police by phone or email.

Police patrol closed park facilities

Police also are patrolling local parks, now closed due to the lockdown against COVID-19, according to township police.

[Updated] The chief said that township officers have been spending time enforcing the mayor and state governor’s orders on social distancing. "There have been some isolated incidents at the parks of individuals gathering that needed to be addressed," Shimsky said.

Mayor closed parks to prevent social groups congregating

Last weekend, Mayor James Baldassare Jr. announced that persistent reports of people congregating socially at township parks led him to announce an immediate closure of all public parks, although the township's walking trails would remain open.

Township recreational facilities now off-limits to the public include playgrounds, athletic fields, as well as large open grassy areas, tennis courts, basketball courts, volleyball courts, picnic shelters, the roller rink, the dog park, park restrooms and park water fountains, the announcement said.  

Theft of van reported

Also during the past week, Burger said an older style van in which the keys had been left was reported stolen on Monday, March 30.

The vehicle was stolen from Glen Avenue in the early morning hours, and was recovered in Newark on the same day approximately three to four hours later, according to information from township police.

"On a state level, violent crime, murders and shootings have dramatically decreased over the last few weeks," Shimsky observed. "Unfortunately the car thieves and burglars are business as usual,"  both in Bernards Township and neighboring towns, he noted.