PLAINFIELD, NJ — A second town hall-like session with Mayor Adrian O. Mapp was held online Wednesday to update the Plainfield community on coronavirus cases in the Queen City, to stress the importance of filling out the census, and to address questions about budget shortfalls.
The Mayor started the session off with the latest statistics on COVID-19, adding that Plainfield receives its data from the New Jersey Department of Health's Communicable Disease Reporting and Surveillance System. There is sometimes a lag in the data being reported, he added.
As of Wednesday evening, there are 332 cases in town. Mapp said the number has tripled since his last Facebook Live session a week ago, and said deaths in town now stand at ten.
There are 343 individuals who remain under quarantine, and range in age from 7 to 96-years-old. When asked who is in charge of quarantined individuals, the mayor said there are no "quarantine police" who go home to home, but he reminded those on the call that it is in the best interest of the affected individuals, their families and the community as a whole to stay in and quarantine.
"And we've all been told that the surge [in the number of cases] is coming, and that this week and next week could be worse. Therefore, I caution all of you to not relax your precautionary measures, but to strengthen them," the Mayor said.
Mapp said he and his administration have been reminding retail establishments, along with apartment building and senior facility operators, to sanitize door handles and other surfaces that are often touched by lots of people.
"We have been given the assurance by the management of the Plainfield Housing Authority and the management of other buildings that sanitizing measures are being carried out on a daily basis."
The Mayor also stressed the importance of all households in the city to complete the 2020 Census. As of April 7, responses rates are 46.2% across the U.S., 47.4% in New Jersey, 48.3% in Union County, and just 36.2% in Plainfield.
Concerns from those in attendance were raised about privacy in filling out the census questions. According to frequently asked questions on my2020census.gov:
The Census Bureau is required by law to protect your information. The Census Bureau is not permitted to publicly release your responses in a way that could identify you or your household. Per the Federal Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2015, your data are protected from cybersecurity risks through screening of the systems that transmit your data. All web data submissions are encrypted in order to protect your privacy.
Title 13 of the U.S. Code protects the confidentiality of all your information. Violating the confidentiality of a respondent is a federal crime with serious penalties, including a federal prison sentence of up to five years, a fine of up to $250,000, or both. Only authorized individuals have access to the stored data, and the information you provide to the Census Bureau may only be used by a restricted number of authorized individuals who are sworn for life to protect the confidentiality of your individual responses. Your answers cannot be used against you by any government agency or court.
The Mayor mentioned last week's robocall on the budget. He said the budget will be approved at a special meeting with the council on Monday, April 13 - that meeting will be available online.
"My administration has a responsibility to prepare and to introduce a budget to the council. And the council, by statute, has to approve that budget. Once that budget has been approved, the council is obligated to have a public hearing. That public hearing cannot be earlier than 28 days after the budget has been introduced. The council can make amendments to the budget after the public hearing, and can proceed to adoption. That adoption can only occur with the approval of the division of local government services."
The Mayor added, "That, in a nutshell, is the process. Anything you have heard to the contrary is misinformation."
Mayor Mapp continued, saying, "Weeks ago, I issued a directive to all department heads to put a lid on all discretionary spending. We are closely monitoring our revenues to see what decisions we have to make going forward. But I can assure you that the house is not on fire, and the sky is not falling."
He added, "We are simply being fiscally prudent as we exercise care, caution, and thoughtfulness in dealing with this global crisis, and to guard against the unknown."
The Mayor reminded those on the call that City Hall remains closed to the public; however, items can be dropped off in appropriate boxes in the lobby.
Questions ensued, and you can hear them asked and answered live here.