BLOOMFIELD, NJ – It was an unprecedented situation for Bloomfield’s Township Council as the scheduled monthly Conference Meeting was closed to the public and media on Monday, March 16, due to concerns over the spreading of Coronavirus (COVID-19).
The meeting, held in the conference room of the Law Enforcement Building, was livestreamed via the township’s official Facebook page, YouTube Page, and on local public access television.
“Our goal is to provide you with real time information to keep you informed of the circumstances, and the circumstances keep changing,” said Karen Lore, Director of Health and Welfare at the Department of Health and Human Services. “Currently, we have two individuals (in the township) who tested positive – that test took place on March 11 and the couple was transported to the hospital, then we received the positive test results on Saturday (March 14).”
“Once we were informed that there was a positive result from these two individuals, we conducted a community spread assessment, and it turned out to be minimal risk based on the (public) interactions of the individuals,” Lore added.
Lore continued, “Unfortunately, the male in this case is a physician, but he did isolate himself from the community. The woman is asymptomatic and the only person she had contact with was a relative and that person is also asymptomatic.”
Keeping the community safe has long been a top priority for the township. Testing for various viruses and diseases, not just COVID-19, is something Bloomfield does on a regular basis throughout the year.
“Currently, we have three pending individuals who are awaiting test results, and if positive, we will then determine their community spread (prior to isolation),” Lore added.
If an individual is told by the township to isolate, they must remain in their home. If someone is told to self-quarantine, they must isolate and monitor their symptoms and remain away from other individuals. This could also pertain to those that are asymptomatic.
“Right now, it takes anywhere from four to seven days to get test results back,” Lore continued. “But I think the testing is going to be less of an issue (going forward) as the Governor (Phil Murphy) said we are going to be setting up two locations (in New Jersey) with one in Monmouth County and one in Bergen County.”
Township Administrator Matthew Watkins provided clarity as to Bloomfield’s day-to-day operations regarding municipal employees and township buildings.
“We are putting out daily notices of the activities that we are doing, and we have set up an alternative way for people to pay bills with a drop box at Township Hall – those documents will then be delivered by us to the appropriate department,” said Watkins. “We are also staggering the shifts of our police and fire departments, this way if we have a (positive Coronavirus) case here, we won’t lose a large portion of police and fire.”
Breakfast and lunch meals were offered to children who qualify through the schools starting today. That service is expected to increase over the next week.
“Since our senior citizen programs have lessened with most being cut entirely, Health and Human Services have stayed in contact with our seniors – we talk to them and check in with them and provide food from the food pantry where it’s needed,” Watkins continued. “We are taking care of that fragile part of the community.”
The public was encouraged to watch for official township postings to keep residents well informed as to the steps being taking by local government.
“Things change every hour,” Watkins explained. “The Municipal Building is still open, but we are going to stagger the staff and the workforce so that if someone must be quarantined, we aren’t quarantining the entire staff.”
With the kickoff meeting for Bloomfield Township Census cancelled last Thursday due to fears of spreading the coronavirus, residents were asked to please act quickly to the surveys.
“Everyone should have, or will soon be receiving, the Census forms,” said Mayor Michael Venezia. “I urge everyone to please fill it out and return it – it’s very important for us to have a correct count for the township. They aren’t due until May, however if you received it, please sent it back as soon as possible.”
Census survey information can also be submitted via email.
Present at the meeting were First-Ward Councilwoman Jenny Mundell, Second-Ward Councilman Nicholas Joanow, Third-Ward Councilwoman Sarah Cruz, Councilwoman-at-Large Nina Davis, Councilman-at-Large Ted Gamble and Councilman-At-Large Richard Rockwell.
Also in attendance were Township Attorney Michael Parlavecchio, Township Engineer Paul Lasek and Municipal Clerk Louise Palagano.
The Township Council holds its monthly Regular Meeting on Monday, March 30, 7 pm, at the Council Chambers at the Municipal Building.