JERSEY CITY, NJ - Hudson County government remains open for the moment, to help many of the neediest during the current coronavirus pandemic. But the situation is posing serious obstacles, especially in regard to testing people for the disease.
“We just can’t get kits,” said County Executive Tom DeGise who shared that while he thought the state would be supplying them he doesn't want to wait any longer and is in the process of seeking private vendors. “It is frustrating. We are on the verge of setting up a testing site. But lack of test kits hampers us. We’re willing to foot the bill for them. But we can’t get them."
DeGise continued to tell TAPinto that getting testing going in a big way quickly is critical because "we’re not over this yet." As the most congested county in the state, perhaps the nation, the concern for spread is even greater in Hudson County, DeGise said. "People live on top of each other here. It is hard to keep them away from each other."
"The number of people infected are on the rise, even if we can’t test to tell how many. This is not yet at the peak of the bad. We haven’t hit the downturn yet," DeGise lamented. "We need to get kits and test people so we can identify the need" as it relates to evaluating the services county residents and business need to get back to health.
“We’ve talked to Hudson Regional (Medical Center) about overseeing the testing,” DeGise said. “We received word from the state that there will be testing centers opening in Bergen and Monmouth counties. We want to do that here. But we need the test kits."
Asked about continuing operation Degise said that “counties are different from cities."
“We just can’t close everything down," he said, adding that under his and the county's remit is a jail to run, a psychiatric ward, and people on welfare that need to be served. "We are doing the best we can. But things are piling on.”
DeGise said that while they may cut back to only essential services the county will keep the county parks open to allow people to walk dogs or just get out of the house.
On Monday the Hudson County Freeholders met with its staff at a special conference to discuss a range of options the county has for providing services under the current conditions.
“How do we keep in touch with seniors if the senior centers are being closed?” asked Freeholder Bill O’Dea. “We need to be in contact with them, not just to provide government services. Individuals may need food or need to go to a doctor and not have a way to get there.”
Fortunately, he said, there is no indication that the virus is airborne, so it is relatively safe to keep the parks open and still maintain distance between people.
“People might not be able to play football. Yet they can maintain social distance, walk dogs, ride bikes, or just get fresh air – unless there is a mandatory lockdown imposed by the state,” O’Dea said.
Representatives from all the major departments outlined their issues including concerns about prisoner and worker safety at the county jail, provision family services, as well as how to provide services to seniors. Included at the meeting were representatives from Hudson Regional Medical Center.
Some of the discussion, TAPinto learned, centered around the need for temporary rental assistance to those who could not go to work, as well as provide critical assistance to local businesses.
Because most businesses are being forced to close, the county may have to play a part in helping them – especially mom-and-pop shops – get back on their feet when the pandemic is over, several elected officials have said.
“There is going to be massive bail out of small businesses,” O’Dea predicted. “Perhaps we will be able to tap the SBA (Small Business Association) to provide large business loans. We will need to find other major incentives to help them.”
Unlike some others, O’Dea actually believes the crisis related to the pandemic may be coming to end in a reasonable amount of time.
Conceding that the entire issue has the county, state, nation, and world in “in uncharted territory,” O’Dea is confident that things will get back to normal eventually, perhaps even on a shorter timeline than some others are suggesting. “Elsewhere in the world, this has lasted between 30 and 60 days. I believe we’re on the shorter end of that. This may make it easier to bounce back,” he said.
“We’ve been through 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy, and we’ll get through this.”
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