CLARK, NJ – After reporting a significant rise in COVID-19 cases in the township on January 5, and another increase as of Monday, January 11, Clark’s Health Officer offered an open letter to the Clark community explaining the protocols in place for disease management, contact tracing and more. Here is Nancy Raymond's letter:
Many inquiries have been received and/or posted on social media regarding the Clark Health Department’s recommendation to have all school go remote beginning the week of January 11th, 2021.
I offer the following explanation.
Each week on the NJDOH website (www.nj.gov/health/cd/statistics/covid) a CALI (COVID 19 Activity Level Index) is published showing a color coded map of NJ showing the COVID activity level. This map and data is for the general public.
In addition to the CALI report, every local health department within the State of NJ, receives, usually on a Thursday, individual municipal level data on the positivity rate, case rates and tests rates. As per a NJDOH directive, local health departments are prohibited from externally sharing (Facebook, websites) this information. This data is to be used internally to make public health planning decisions. This data, coupled with the number of reports received by the Clark Health Department through laboratories and the reports received directly from the District’s Director or Nursing on a daily basis of students, staff and faculty who either tested positive or have been identified as a close contact, led to my recommendation to go all remote. Clark is now in red (very high activity).
Again, this was a recommendation. The District and the Superintendent of Schools had the option to consult with the Clark Board of Education, the County Superintendent, other municipalities etc.
There have been questions about how the Clark Health Department performs case investigations and contact tracing of COVID cases in the township. We have investigated and closed over 800 cases since the pandemic began. Any case reported to us is investigated. If lab reports are not submitted electronically through the Communicable Disease Registry Surveillance System by the health care provider or the lab assessing results as required by the state, then the Clark Health Department will never know about the person(s) and will not know to initiate contact tracing.
In regard to close contacts, many people are uncomfortable divulging other people’s names, addresses, contact number, who they work for, their supervisor’s information and contact number. We can only ask and explain the importance of the information, but certainly would never demand this information from anyone.
As per NJDOH, as positive case counts continue to rise, we have been instructed to concentrate on case investigations and pivot back to close contacts as time and case counts permit. I can confirm that during our case investigations, we do obtain information on household close contacts who more often than not will also test positive.
I am working to obtain weekly data for publication.
The Clark Health Department has an extensive list of duties and services required to maintain the health and safety of residents. In the 24 years prior to the pandemic, my days were full executing on those responsibilities. The pandemic has consumed my regular workdays and many additional hours. I was recently able to hire an assistant which benefits the duties of this department and therefore the community.
My purpose in writing today is part of what I see as my role in educating and protecting the community. It is my hope that each resident will cooperate with us when we reach out and encourage others to do the same for the benefit of all.