STATEWIDE – We’re all happy, positive people here, so let’s just sum up the grim COVID news in one swoop. OK. Go: Hospitals statewide are preparing for a surge as early as next week and are worried about staffing. All 21 counties have “high” activity for the eighth straight week, there’s an unprecedented surge in gun permit applications, 10 MVC offices are now closed because of the pandemic, the state is reporting 6,000 more cases today and backlogged appointments for vaccines are being scheduled for early spring, for those lucky enough to land one, while no one appears to be answering phones. And there is other stuff too – Sigh – but c’mon, do you need more?

ATLANTIC CITY – To further underscore the colossal mess of 2020, consider this stat: New Jersey accepted a whopping $6 billion in sports wagers last year, but the state was still significantly down in overall gambling revenue. You can certainly point to the state’s nine casinos, whose doors were closed for 3 ½ months. The AP reports $2.88 billion in gambling revenue last year – a 17% decline from 2019. A silver lining – as we all love our silver linings – Atlantic City is a sleeping giant. It just needs to navigate this damn pandemic. Those who advocated for all this internet gambling now appear as geniuses. You’ve saved AC.

SOUTH JERSEY – At the end of another tough week, you can always find levity in whatever Rep. Jeff Van Drew decides to wear. As he voted to not impeach the president on Wednesday, all eyes on C-Span were focused on his zoot suit, rather than whatever dumb comments he was offering to defend Trump. The Philadelphia Inquirer even devoted an entire article to the congressman’s wardrobe, saying his look drew savage commentary from Twitter pundits, with some saying he appeared like a gangster from a B movie in, say, 1935. “None of the lawsuits against Donald Trump are as bad as this suit,” the comedian Samantha Bee noted. From mismatched pinstripes and pocket squares, to being one of the only remaining people in the room defending an egomaniac, Van Drew shows, yet again, to be on the wrong side of good taste.

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BRIEFING BREATHER

Bigger forks help you eat less.

TOMS RIVER – Most people never actually met a “county commissioner,” the new name for county freeholders who very few folks also never met. Yet, in Ocean County, there is a mad race for people eager to serve in this county post. Three GOP contenders have come out the woodwork so far – and a fourth is expected – vying to replace a long-time freeholder (now commissioner) who will retire Dec. 31. The Asbury Park Press says the main face-off is between Berkeley Councilman John Bacchione and Little Egg Harbor Committeewoman “Bobbi Jo” Crea. This “a proxy battle” for party dominance, with disgraced former GOP chairman George Gilmore behind Bacchione and his successor, Frank B. Holman 3rd, backing Crea. Now, Manchester lawyer Rory Wells wants to run as a spoiler and a former Point Pleasant Beach mayor is also likely to seek the county GOP nomination in March. It’s a political brawl that's worth watching, as opposed to Van Drew’s latest neckwear.

STATEWIDE – In further heartbreaking news for those with childhood baseball card collections pried from our clutches and tossed in the garbage by clueless moms, a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card was just purchased for $5.2 million. Forbes reports serial entrepreneur Rob Gough was willing to dole out the most cash ever paid for one sports card because it is – unlike The Mick’s abused liver – in mint condition. And although few cards or players are held in such lofty esteem, memorabilia experts say Gough’s purchase is sure to raise the value of other cardboard keepsakes – and prompt middle-aged men everywhere to realize they could have earned a lifetime of salary with what they possessed at age 11.

IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS

ROME – All that super-fancy French gastronomy is adding a new ingredient to the menu: worms. The European Union’s food safety agency has finally decided that worms are safe to eat and, in fact, dried yellow mealworms can be quite delicious. Worms can also be presented in many ways: Alive, dead, eaten whole or in a powdered form – the secret ingredient in a protein-rich, low-fat afternoon snack. Now, there may be some side effects, if diners happen to be allergic to whatever these bugs ate before capture. But, overall, the panel concluded: Bon Appétit!

THIS DAY IN HISTORY 

It was this day in 1995 that backwater Alabama introduced a new area code – 334 – thus ensuring all local phone numbers in the swamp are at least four digits long.

WORD OF THE DAY

Servile – [SER-vul] – adjective

Definition: Of or befitting a menial position

Example: I sometimes do the most servile of work but am never defeated by it. 

WIT OF THE DAY

“It depends upon what the meaning of the word 'is' is.”

- Bill Clinton

BIDEN BLURB

“I hope they’ll deal with their Constitutional responsibilities on impeachment while also working on the other urgent business of this nation.”

-Joe Biden

WEATHER IN A WORD

Raindrops