HACKENSACK, N.J. — All 75 school districts in Bergen County will be closed beginning Friday, March 13, Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco said during a news conference Thursday night inside the Freeholder Public Meeting Room at One Bergen County Plaza.

Students will transition from on-site learning to off-site, internet-based and paper-based learning “until further notice.”

“After consulting with Executive Leadership of the Bergen County Association of School Administrators and our County Health Officer, I have decided to have all 75 public school districts in Bergen County transition from on-site learning to off-site internet-based and paper-based distance learning until further notice,” said Tedesco Thursday evening. “With the continuing spread of COVID-19 throughout Bergen County, it is imperative that we take action and do everything in our power to protect our 1 million residents. This includes our 75 school districts which have almost 170,000 children; 16,000 teachers; and hundreds and hundreds of administrative, custodial and support staff.”

Sign Up for Hackensack Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

On Tuesday, Tedesco declared a State of Emergency in Bergen County following the death of a 69-year-old Little Ferry man who succumbed to the virus at Hackensack University Medical Center. As of March 12, 23 cases of presumptive positive COVID-19 were reported in Bergen County, including Fort Lee, Teaneck, Englewood and Bergenfield. Tedesco temporarily shuttered all 100 county-operated senior activity centers “to protect senior citizens who continue to be the most vulnerable population when it comes to the spread of this deadly virus.”

The coronavirus, which are a family of viruses that can cause illnesses such as the common cold, pose a low risk for otherwise healthy individuals. Exposure to the virus only poses life-threatening consequences in older individuals or those with a weakened immune system, or other underlying health conditions such as lung disease, according to health officials. The Little Ferry man who succumbed to the virus, identified as John Brennan, was a horse trainer who reportedly had emphysema, diabetes and hypertension. 

COVID-19 are part of a family of viruses which cause colds and other upper respiratory infections. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), signs of infection include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and death.

Physicians at Hackensack University Medical Center said during a press conference on March 1 that 80% of coronavirus cases are "relatively mild" and that recovery time can take anywhere from 2-3 weeks until the individuals are able to “resume their normal lives.” Only about 5% of cases, he said, have resulted in "very serious, acute" diseases and potentially life-threatening due to underlying health problems that the individual had before their exposure to the virus.

Physicians say the best protection against the virus is hand washing for 20 seconds and avoiding touching the nose, mouth and eyes while out in public. They also advise staying within 6 feet of individuals who are exhibiting signs of sickness like sneezing or coughing. The coronavirus, like other respiratory illnesses such as the common cold and the flu, can pass from respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes on or near another, specifically, landing in the mouths or noses of the healthy person, which can be inhaled into the lungs. People who are mildly sick should stay home, and those with a more severe illness warrants a trip to the Emergency Department.    

To prevent the spread of the virus, county leaders also suspended visitation to Bergen County Health Care Center at Rockleigh; Bergen New Bridge Medical Center also implemented the same for their long-term care facility. Also closed are the Bergen County Technical Schools and the Bergen County Special Services Schools, which affects approximately 3,600 students and 1,600 teachers and administrators until further notice. 
 
“While the CDC states that COVID-19 does not pose as great a risk to our children as it does to our older adult population, it is vital that we protect our children from the dangers of this virus or the community spread of this virus,” Tedesco said. “We are confident in the ability of Bergen County’s teachers, staff and administrators to successfully educate our children off-site, and are encouraging them to begin preparing lesson-plans as soon as possible.”

He continued, “Unfortunately, this virus is not going anywhere for the time-being. As your County Executive, I will continue to take every step necessary to protect you and your families.”
 
County officials are also encouraging businesses to allow their staffers to stay at home communicating via modern technology in order to be with their children to address their childcare needs. 
 
“We hope and expect private businesses would make allowances to their employees to be paid for a reasonable time to take care of their families -- similar to the Civil Service guidelines public employees have,” he said.

As civilians continue to ride out the wave of this global pandemic, which has thus far resulted in over 120,000 infections and claimed the lives of more than 4,300 people, Tedesco offered some words of encouragement to County residents:

“The people of Bergen County are a very strong group of people and we will get through this,” he said. “We made it through Superstorm Floyd and Superstorm Sandy when schools were closed for days and we will make it through COVID-19.”