RARITAN TWP., N.J. – The Raritan Township Committee was advised to follow the state’s lead in closing the township’s parks until further notice as they were updated on the township’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

As of Monday, the state reported Hunterdon County had 234 positive coronavirus cases and two deaths.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order Tuesday that closed all state parks and forests until further notice to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

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Christopher Phelan, director of the Office of Emergency Management, told the township committee Tuesday that the order does not provide any guidance for federal or municipal parks. He added that Flemington Borough plans to close its parks and recommended Raritan do the same.

“My concerns would be public safety or an influx of other folks coming as these larger facilities around the county are closed,” Phelan said.

Addressing concerns from Mayor Jeff Kuhl, Phelan said there will be some time to reassess and adjust the move unless the governor comes back to address municipalities.

Deputy Mayor Karen Gilbert said she “hates” having to close the parks. But she said she observed the number of people on the toe path along the Delaware River.

“It was packed over the weekend,” she said. “Sometimes things need to be enforced as opposed to hoping that people will do the right thing.”

The park closures were expected to take place as early as Wednesday.

The committee meeting itself utilized a different forum to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

While Phelan and township staff were in the municipal building, where meetings would normally be held, committee members participated remotely by way of video conference.

Residents were able to have access to the meeting either online or by telephone.

Phelan also reported that emergency management has been providing assistance support to Hunterdon Medical Center by directing people to different triage areas.

Also, the public works department has provided signage directing traffic at the hospital and for other sites in the county.

He added that they’ve been fulfilling requests for personal protective equipment as “best we can.”

The township has also been assisted in its COVID-19 response by Holland and Readington townships.

Amid the pandemic, Phelan noted the township’s new Nixle alert system came online recently. Residents can receive emergency alerts from the township to their phones by signing up on the township’s website.  

The first message sent Saturday was an advisory with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control about wearing a face mask while out in public.