NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – Health Officer Megan Avalone attended the Monday, April 27 council Zoom meeting and gave an update on Covid-19 in New Providence. Meanwhile, New Providence residents have extended their helping hands to both seniors and those working on the frontline.

Avalone explained that the numbers are constantly moving as reporting is not always consistent. However, it appears that the number of cases seems to be leveling off. On Monday there were 12,011 cases with 583 deaths in the county. New Providence had 110 Covid-19 cases last Friday with 19 deaths. The two long-term care centers – Lantern Hill and Spring Grove have contributed to these numbers.

Council President Robert Robinson asked about the April 21 jump in positive cases. Avalone responded that the long-term care facilities use outside labs which do not feed directly into the electronic reporting system. These results have to be uploaded manually which is often done in bulk, not one by one. She noted that both facilities are “truly great”. We are in daily contact with both facilities. We are ensuring that those facilities are doing everything they can to keep their residents and employees safe, she added.

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Avalone touched upon the governor’s roadmap to get us back to normal. The first indicator is the reductions in cases and hospitalizations. Overlook Hospital has already seen a decrease in hospital admissions and an increase in discharges as well as an overall decrease in emergency room activity, she said. “We still are not testing the vast majority.” But with the next few weeks we are hoping to have access to rapid testing kits, she said. She noted that the local health officials are also doing the contact tracing. She explained that all health departments have only been responding to covid-19 cases since March.

Robinson commended Avalone and Borough Nurse Jennifer Aranda for their efforts during this pandemic.

Councilman Peter DeSarno told the council about a new New Providence non-profit organization - “Our Community for All” - that was started as a result of the grant received from the Grotta Fund. So far 25 volunteers have signed up for one or more projects and two initiatives are underway. One of the initiatives is the Senior Buddies program offering wellness checking as well as free grocery shopping for seniors. The other initiative is an outreach program carried out via the US mail, basically providing hard copies of essential information for those who are not connected to the internet. The first mailings for 240 households were sent on April 21 and four more mailings are scheduled to go out during the next few weeks. These efforts have helped in the delivery of food, information and companionship to our most vulnerable population at this time, he said.

Councilman Matthew Cumiskey said that Senior Buddies is a partnership program with the borough Rec Department, the senior center, Diversity Committee and Our Community for All. To date 62 volunteers have signed up. The communication effort is led by Bernadette Cuccaro and her team as they make multiple phone calls reaching a person at least twice a week. Cumiskey read an email message received from a local senior: “I slept well last night for the first time in weeks because I knew someone was calling me today to help me get groceries”. Anyone who would like to be a part of the program can call 908-665-0046 or by email: seniorbuddies@newprov.org.

Both Councilwomen Michele Matsikoudis and Nadine Geoffroy are involved in the FLAG (Frontline Appreciation Group). Matsikoudis thanked the many volunteers who have been making masks and headbands as well as helping seniors. “It is really amazing to watch our town in action.” Recently we started an organization called FLAG dedicated to feed our frontline health care workers and also supporting our local restaurants to keep them in business, she explained. After only two weeks in existence the organization passed $10,000 in donations. It has delivered 208 meals and spent $2,000 so far. “We have been feeding the EMS, our dispatch, police department, DPW, Atlantic Ambulance and Overlook Hospital and we have meals set up going forward,” she said. More information can be found on the FLAG of New Providence Facebook page.

Geoffroy explained that the borough website has a link to all detailed and accurate Covid-19 information to help residents cope during this time.