LIVINGSTON, NJ — Following an update from Township Manager Barry Lewis on the status of the 2020 municipal budget, Livingston Health Officer Lou Anello addressed the public during Monday’s Livingston Township Council meeting regarding the expectedly steep increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases being reported among Livingston residents.

Fire Chief Chris Mullin, who also serves as Coordinator of Livingston’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), also provided a brief but positive update regarding the township’s stock of personal protective equipment (PPE).

According to Anello, the number of COVID-19 cases has been increasing significantly within 24-hour periods. For reference, the number of cases confirmed among Livingston residents had increased from 93 to 107 between Anello's report at 7 p.m. on Monday and Essex County's report at 9 a.m. on Tuesday. (As of Thursday morning, there were 119 laboratory-confirmed cases and eight deaths in Livingston.) 

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Reiterating that the number of cases is expected to increase as more and more people get tested for the disease, Anello also reminded the community that the total being reported is not necessarily indicative of how many residents have contracted the disease, as the number does not include residents who have either not been tested or have been misdiagnosed with the flu.

“What’s complicating this a little is that we’re still getting people who are going to their physicians with flu-like symptoms, and it’s being diagnosed as the flu,” said Anello, who explained that some of those residents have also contacted the health department stating that their physician believes them to have COVID-19, but are unable to confirm the diagnosis.

In those cases, Anello said the health department is following the same protocol it does with COVID-19 patients, meaning that the department is monitoring those individuals and following up with any close contacts. He clarified, however, that those individuals are not included in the official total of COVID-19 cases being reported within the township because they are not considered laboratory-confirmed patients.

With regard to monitoring any individuals with whom the confirmed COVID-19 patients have come into contact with, Anello said he and his team at the Livingston Health Department are “trying [their] best to outreach as far as [they] can,” but that the contacts have “typically [been] isolated to [the people in] their home.”

In response to a concern raised during public comment on Monday, Anello reiterated that once an individual receives a positive result, an isolation period is recommended but considered voluntary. Therefore, it is up to the individual to self-monitor his or her symptoms and to keep his or her distance from others to avoid spreading the disease, he said.

After hearing Anello’s comments and the concerns from residents, Mayor Rudy Fernandez said that “everybody should just assume they have it” and that all residents should “stay home, only go out when absolutely necessary and stay at least six feet away from people.”

“I think that’s the appropriate way to behave,” he said.  

In other news related to the pandemic, Mullin reported that Saint Barnabas Medical Center has pitched a second tent in the hospital’s parking lot across from the emergency room in order to accommodate what he described as a “sporadic” overflow of patients.

“From what I was being told today, they’re not getting jammed with people—they’re not being overrun—but at times there is overflow,” he said. “And it does go into the second tent, where they do the ‘triage,’ if you will, on the patient to see if they are experience signs of the virus, and then they would be admitted to the hospital.”

As OEM Coordinator, Mullin noted he recently received notice from several group homes in town as well as Inglemoor Rehabilitation & Care Center that they were in need of certain supplies such as gloves, sanitizers and masks to avoid an outbreak. However, thanks to generous donations from various Livingston community members, the township has been able to meet those needs for the time being.

For future reference, Mullin noted that all requests for personal protective equipment (PPE) must go directly through the local OEM. According to state protocol, he said, it is up to the local OEM to take requests to the county and state levels as deemed necessary.

“We’re hoping this week we get some kind of relief at the county level,” said Mullin. “I plan on making follow up calls to see where our PPE is that we requested, but so far everybody in town is satisfied. I don’t want to say we’re not at a critical level, but right now everybody’s needs have been satisfied by the donations we’ve gotten.”

Police Chief Gary Marshuetz also acknowledged those who donated supplies, stating that the Livingston Police Department received more than 8,000 masks from several Chinese families earlier this week. He said the entire department appreciates the donations, but advised residents that the officers are keeping what is needed at the department and passing along all other supplies to Mullin to be disseminated to other entities.

Click on the headlines below to read updates from Marshuetz and more from Monday’s meeting, or CLICK HERE to view the meeting in its entirety:

Livingston Council Postpones Budget Adoption to Assess COVID-19 Impacts

Crime Rate Decreases in Livingston; Police Chief Requests Honesty from Residents