FLEMINGTON, NJ - At its high point, 75 people gathered online Monday for a press conference with Flemington Mayor Betsy Driver, OEM Coordinator Brian McNally and OEM First Deputy Dave Guiliani.
The 25-minute Facebook session offered important Flemington-based information about how local government and borough employees are working to keep residents safe during the COVID-19 crisis.
“It’s been a crazy, crazy couple of weeks,” said Driver, before she and the OEM workers proceeded to outline some of what’s going on behind the scenes at borough hall.
Operationally we’re good, the mayor assured everyone.
There is scrolling yellow banner marked COVID19 at the top of the Flemington Borough homepage with links to current information and available resources, including special shopping accommodations for seniors at area groceries. Information on this site is available in English and Spanish.
Although the borough has no control over state taxes, late fees on borough water and sewer bills are being waived and payment deadlines have been pushed out 30 days.
“There will be no water or sewer shutoffs during this crisis, so if the decision is whether to buy food or pay the water bill, buy food,” the mayor said. “We’re all in this together. Local bills that we can control we are. We’re doing all we can.”
To keep in line with social distancing guidelines, there is one person on duty at a time at borough hall. Telephones are manned Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Also, DPW staff is working in teams of three. Residents are asked not to put unbagged yard debris at the curb at this time to allow workers to move quickly and efficiently.
Guilani noted that the emergency call count is down, which he said is a good thing because it means that hospital staff can focus on life-threatening emergencies and COVID-victims.
“This is changing day by day,” he said, “it’s a fluid situation. Just stay home and we’ll get through it.”
Driver said she has been checking in on local businesses as much as possible and she gave a shout out to grocery store employees, postal workers and healthcare professionals who are working to keep life as normal as possible.
Specifically, she recognized Flemington businesses WBM and Diamond Heart for their donations of personal protection equipment to the police department and hospital.
Residents were warned not to flush anything but toilet tissue. The mayor said that during normal times, if a resident has an issue with clogging, DPW workers would come to their homes and try to help.
However, at this time, borough employees will not be able to enter homes, so clogged pipes would have to be dealt with by hiring a plumber.
All three participants in the conference encouraged residents to sign up for Swift 911, a borough alert system – via telephone, text or email – that will keep people informed during emergencies, severe weather events and other crisis situations.
Noting there are a lot of “myths and rumors” floating around, McNally directed everyone to the COVID19.NJ.Gov website for accurate information.
The OEM coordinator said the question he is most often asked is about getting tested. He said that while there are two independent drive-through testing sites, to qualify for testing you must be symptomatic – have a fever of at least 100 degrees, cough and shortness of breath.
McNally suggested contacting a primary care doctor with questions.
The biggest take away from the press conference was a call to action.
“Focus on your neighbors and each other,” said McNally, adding if you have a neighbor that’s a senior citizen, call and check on them.
Driver mentioned that, in Clinton, a Facebook group called Clinton Helping Clinton was created to let people know they’re not alone, their neighbors and friends are there for them. As a testament to the caring and responsive Flemington community, a volunteer, Kat Tinina Rosario, who was watching the Facebook conference stepped forward immediately to create a similar group for Flemington.
Find the Flemington Helping Flemington group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/flemingtonhelpingflemington.
McNally requested that anyone who has extra masks, gloves or goggles donate them for first responders and healthcare workers.
“There’s a nationwide shortage,“ he said, “so we’re asking for your help.”
Non-profits, namely Meals on Wheels and the Hunterdon County Help Line, need volunteers. McNally asked that anyone who can help go to those websites for further information.
Driver added that there is a shortage of blood, so anyone who can, please donate by scheduling an appointment at the Hunterdon Medical Center or by calling Hunterdon Healthcare’s blood donor services.
Throughout the session, Driver, McNally and Guiliani reiterated what’s being said at all levels of government: stay at home, practice social distancing and wash your hands often.