The following is a message from Wood-Ridge Mayor Paul Sarlo to the community:
On behalf of the Wood-Ridge Borough Council, I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to all our residents for your cooperation during these unprecedented times.
I am very pleased to see that our residents are adhering to the stay at home orders and mitigation efforts. It is also very heartwarming to see so many families spending quality time with each other by taking walks and bike rides or relaxing together in their yards. I also want to thank all of our residents who have supported local businesses through their take-out orders.
As a lifelong resident of Wood-Ridge, I must admit that it is surreal to see a nearly empty Valley Boulevard in the evening when the street is normally buzzing with shoppers and cars returning home from work or heading out to recreation programs or other community activities. I’m sure we all wish for our lives to return back to normal as soon as possible, but I also know that, as a community, we all realize that the precautions we’re all taking are for the greater good, which will save lives and reduce avoidable illness and suffering.
As of today the Bergen County Health Department reports that Wood-Ridge has had approximately 130 people who tested positive for COVID-19 since the virus first hit Bergen County. In all of Bergen County approximately 17,000 people have tested positive during this same time period. To put those numbers into perspective, Bergen County’s population is approximately 1,000,000 and Wood-Ridge’s population is approximately 10,000, meaning our town constitutes about 1% of the population of Bergen County. Therefore, about 1.7% of Bergen County residents, and 1.2% of Wood-Ridge residents, have tested positive and our 130 positive cases equate to approximately .8% of the county’s total positive cases.
Due to HIPPA privacy regulations we do not know the identity of those who have tested positive, but we know from medical professionals that the vast majority of those infected have fully recovered. Tragically, some people did not recover and lost their lives. Bergen County Health Department reports the sad news that 1215 county residents have died, 3 of whom were from Wood-Ridge. I ask everyone to please remember these victims in your prayers.
While the data indicates that COVID-19 has impacted our community at lower rates than Bergen County as a whole, we must understand that the statistics and data are constantly changing. This points to one conclusion: we must remain vigilant and take precautions such as practicing social distancing and wearing face masks in order to stay safe. Following these precautions will be even more important as we start the process of slowly re-opening businesses.
Throughout this health emergency our public servants have been hard at work to provide for the needs of our community. They deserve our thanks and our praise.
The FIRST AND BIGGEST THANK YOU goes to our Volunteer EMT’s in the Wood-Ridge Fire Department who have faithfully answered hundreds of ambulance calls for both COVID and non-COVID health emergencies.
Thank you to our Wood-Ridge Police Department for keeping our community safe and for being the initial first response when residents call for an ambulance.
Thank you to our Public Works Department for keeping our streets and parks clean and most importantly for disinfecting the public buildings every day to provide a safe environment for their fellow public employees to work.
Thank you to our Administrative Employees for continuing to work at Borough Hall while it is closed to the public in order to keep our local government operating and answer the thousands of phone calls and emails from their fellow residents.
A special BIG THANK YOU to all of our teachers who have been working diligently every day to provide our students with on-line instruction and virtual learning. I know I can speak for all parents when I say that having our children home all day gives us a renewed appreciation for the hard work teachers perform every day in the classroom.
Speaking of students, now that in-school classes have officially been cancelled for the remainder of the school year, I want to give a BIG THANK YOU and a BIG I’M SORRY to all of our students, especially our high school seniors, who have had their lives disrupted and have missed so many academic, extracurricular, athletic and social experiences because of this health emergency. I want to reassure our high school seniors who have missed or will miss many senior year milestones that, while it may not feel like it now, this disappointment will make you stronger and more resilient and even more likely to succeed in the next chapter of your lives.
I also want to acknowledge our residents who serve us as essential employees of essential businesses. Thank you to all doctors and nurses and everyone else who works at hospitals, healthcare providers and other medical facilities. Thank you to everyone working at grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, convenience stores, gas stations and take-out restaurants. Thank you to all of our mass transit, public utility and construction workers. Thank you to all the truck drivers and delivery drivers and all the workers at warehouses and food packages facilities that ensure we have food and other vital products. And to all the other essential workers I haven’t specifically mentioned, thank you for doing your part to keep our country functioning.
Turning to our local government here in Wood-Ridge, the Borough Council and I have been trying to make lemonade out of lemons during this health emergency by pursuing projects that will improve our quality of life when the emergency is lifted. Demolition and construction at the site of the Wood-Ridge Athletic Complex has continued. Road improvements are being undertaken and upgrades are continuing at the Donna Ricker Field behind Wood-Ridge High School. Our two passive parks, Veterans Park on Valley Boulevard and Kour Park on 13th Street, have remained open. Donna Ricker Field & Track are open and used by dozens of residents and students every day. Unfortunately, we must keep our playgrounds and basketball courts closed because we can’t provide the necessary social distancing and sanitization at those facilities.
I know that some residents are facing economic hardship right now due to being furloughed from their job or having to temporarily close their small business. Even if you’re receiving state and federal unemployment benefits, it is still unsettling to be out of work or experience a drop in income. We hope and pray that these jobs will return and that businesses will reopen as soon as possible in the coming weeks when the health situation improves.
In an effort to provide a little extra cushion for residents who may be cash strapped at this time, the Borough Council is approving an extension of the grace period for paying 2nd Quarter property taxes from May 11th to June 1st. I want to sincerely thank the 80% of residents who have paid their property taxes already. I also want to ask those residents who have the ability to pay by May 11th to please do so that we can continue to fund our government services. As much as we don’t like paying property taxes, we must recognize that taxes are needed to pay outside vendors for vital public services like garbage and recycling collection, street lighting and sewage treatment as well as the salaries for the teachers, police officers and other public employees who continue to serve us during this emergency.
Wood-Ridge is a special town because it is made up of special people. Each and every one of you makes Wood-Ridge a special town by working together, emphasizing the positive, recognizing the greater good and realizing that we’re all in this together.
On behalf of the Borough Council, thank you all for your continued patience, cooperation and understanding. Most of all thank you for doing your part to keep Wood-Ridge on the Road to Progress despite these challenging circumstances.
Stay safe and healthy and may God bless you and your families.
Mayor Paul Sarlo