SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ - Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12) held a Facebook Live session today to address concerns from her constituents about the COVID-19 pandemic. The Congresswoman was joined by Doctor Ronald Nahass, the infectious disease specialist at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, and Rob Asaro-Angelo, the New Jersey Commissioner of the Department of Labor.

Coleman asked both Nahass and Asaro-Angelo questions that she has been hearing often from her constituents, concerning how to stay healthy during this crisis and how to collect unemployment if a person is unable to work at this time.

 According to Nahass, the state and the county have not hit the ‘peak’ amount of positive cases yet, and he is unable to tell exactly how many New Jersey residents will be infected before the crisis has ended. Throughout history, diseases such as this have hit a peak and then began to go down as the doctor reported.

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As of now, RWJ is focusing on helping those who are currently sick. Dr. Nahass encourages residents to continue practicing social distancing to stop the virus from spreading from one person to another.

Coleman asked Dr. Nahass about disinfecting groceries and mail, a question that she has heard from residents who are concerned about grocery store shopping. Nahass assured citizens that the disease is spread mostly through direct contact with people, and as long as stores are abiding by proper guidelines there is no excessive need to wash them before touching them. Nahass expressed more concern about the way that grocery store check out lines are being organized, as residents are not being forced to maintain a six feet distance from each other while waiting.

Asaro-Angelo spoke about the recent stimulus package that was passed and how New Jersey workers will be collecting unemployment. Benefits have been expanded and each unemployed worker will receive an additional $600 that is tax-exempt. The Commissioner is also waiving wait times to register for unemployment.

Payments will be given out to all those who register within 1-2 weeks of filing. The stimulus bill that passed also has a very broad definition of employment, so those who work part-time or in the gig economy will be able to sign up for unemployment. More info can be found at nj.gov/labor

Asaro-Angelo says that the department is taking all of its cues from the federal Department of Labor, and will be rolling out all of their benefits accordingly. With the high influx of claims, Mr. Asaro-Angelo assures that all other claims, such as those who collect disability, will still be receiving compensation from their office.

At the end of the broadcast, they were able to answer some direct questions from the audience. One of the questions for Nahass was when we will expect a vaccine, to which he said that it will take (rough estimate) about 12-18 months as vaccines need to go through rigorous vetting before being made available to the public.

“I want to make sure that we understand that this will eventually end, we just don’t know when” Nahass said, “The good news is that there will be an end. We are just unable to predict it.”