BERGEN COUNTY, NJ - The new feared 'C' word, coronavirus, hit New Jersey this week beginning in Fort Lee as state, county and local officials, including school districts, put out the word on how to avoid contracting COVID-19. 

“We are urging Bergen County residents to remain calm, not spread fear and panic, and to be assured that we are all working together and utilizing all of our resources to protect the public from the spread of COVID-19,” said County Executive Jim Tedesco.

State health officials announced a second and fourth case with another pending on Friday, March 6.

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The first individual to contract coronavirus is a male in his 30s. He is hospitalized in Hackensack Medical Center in Bergen County and has been hospitalized since March 3.

The second individual, a female in her 30s, is a Bergen County resident. The individual, who has mild symptoms, had her specimen collected at Englewood Hospital and is isolating at home until the New Jersey Department of Health deems her medically cleared.

The fourth case, announced Friday, March 6, is a male in his 50s who is hospitalized at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in Bergen County. The individual has been hospitalized since March 5.

The presumptive positive result came from a sample tested by the New Jersey Department of Health at the New Jersey Public Health Environmental Laboratories and is now being submitted to the CDC for confirmatory testing. 

Currently, there is one other person under investigation pending testing in the state Public Health Environmental Labs, according to a statement put out by Gov. Phil Murphy's office.

Price Gouging

Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco announced the Division of Consumer Protection of Bergen and Passaic Counties are warning residents to be aware of potential COVID-19 related price gouging.

“We are asking Bergen and Passaic County residents to report any merchants that dramatically increase prices for surgical masks, gloves, sanitizing products such as hand sanitizer, Lysol/Clorox wipes and sprays in an apparent attempt to take unfair advantage of a health emergency,” Tedesco said. 

Excessive price increases are defined as price increases that are more than 10 percent higher than the price at which merchandise was sold during the normal course of business prior to the State of Emergency. 

Price-gouging violations are punishable by civil penalties of up to $10,000 for the first offense and $20,000 for the second and subsequent offenses. Each individual sale of merchandise is considered a separate and distinct event.

Consumers who suspect price gouging and other COVID-19 related fraud should contact the Division of Consumer Protection immediately at (201) 336-6400. Leave name, contact information, nature of the complaint, and the name of the business and location. 

Virtual Schooling, if Necessary

Bipartisan legislation introduced in the state senate this week would allow, if passed, school districts to continue educating students remotely in emergency situations that require school facilities to be closed for more than three days.

"Given current concerns about the coronavirus and extended school closures that have occurred in other places around the world, it makes sense for New Jersey to update our plans to ensure that education can continue in the event of a disruption to the regular school schedule," said Senator Gerald Cardinale (R-Bergen/Passaic). "Many of our schools have some level of ability to offer remote learning, which many utilize during the occasional snow day. What we don't have, however, is a clear authorization for e-learning days to count towards the 180-day school requirement. It's something we must address proactively before it becomes a necessity."

Under current law, school districts must provide public school facilities for at least 180 days during the preceding school year from July 1 to June 30 to be eligible for state school aid.

While the law allows the Commissioner of Education to "remit the penalty" of withholding state aid for failing to meet the 180-day requirement "for good cause shown," the State has strictly held that schools must provide in-school education for a school day to count, even when online learning tools are available.

The proposed legislation would allow one or more days of virtual or remote instruction to count towards the 180-day requirement in the event a school district is required to close schools for more than three school days due to an epidemic, weather, or other emergency condition. Those days also would count for the purposes of graduation requirements and the awarding of course credits.

Further, the measure requires the Commissioner of Education to set the standards for remote education, including for students who may not have access to a computer or the Internet. Additionally, the Commissioner would be required to provide guidance to districts on meeting the needs of students who depend on school lunch and breakfast programs.

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail,” said Senator James Beach (D-Burlington/Essex). “...I am glad the Legislature is already preparing for the possibility of New Jersey closing schools for an extended period of time. If that happens, this bill gives the school system the flexibility to continue their education remotely and ensures our youth will have the ability to meet the school-day requirements for the 2019-2020 school year.”

Public health concerns related to the current outbreak of novel coronavirus, also referred to as COVID-19, have led to weeks-long school closures in China, Hong Kong, Italy, and elsewhere as officials have tried to stem the spread of the highly contagious disease, state officials said. Some schools in Washington State and New York have closed due to the emergence of the disease locally.

According to the New York Times, 300 million students worldwide are missing class due to school closures related to the coronavirus epidemic, state officials said.