FANWOOD, NJ – Mayor Colleen Mahr and the Fanwood Borough Council – sitting six feet apart in accordance with social distancing suggestions – welcomed special guest speakers, including Westfield Health Department official Megan Avallone, to answer local questions about the coronavirus (COVID-19) on Monday, March 16, 2020.

Mayor Mahr started the evening by rattling off a list of activities that have been restricted in New Jersey, following Gov. Phil Murphy’s Monday afternoon press conference. Although municipal employees will be working, Borough Hall will be closed for in-person visits.

Related: Gov. Murphy Calls for 8 PM Curfew, Shuts Down Gyms, Theaters, Casinos

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The Mayor, who had been on a call with Union County officials earlier in the day, said that the NJ Dept. of Health is establishing a central site in the County that can do up to 200 COVID-19 drive-through tests per day. She also reassured residents that the water supply is safe.

Additionally, the mayor reported that the SPFK12 District has been delivering food to children in 70 households who receive meals in school and that superintendent Dr. Joan Mast is providing access to online assignments to nearly 100 families that do not have the technological capabilities to engage in online learning.  

“New norms are being established. You may think you aren’t vulnerable,” Mayor Mahr said. “Life has changed for the moment and produced stress and anxiety. We will be updating website for mental health information.”

Mayor Mahr said that the NJ Assembly will take up initiatives to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and respond to the concerns of business owners. They are considering legislation that will address business insurance small business loan programs, and a temporary lost wage unemployment program, among other items.

The mayor then turned over the microphone to Westfield Health Department official Megan Avallone, who took questions from Fanwood residents who were watching on Facebook Live and on cable access TV.

“Social distancing is one of the most important things we can do,” Avallone said. “What does that mean? Staying home as much as possible. Having restaurants only available for pickup and delivery. Not attending family gatherings and not going to stores unless you really need something.”

Avallone advised residents to call their healthcare providers in advance before showing up. She also stressed the importance of reading information from credible sources, such as the CDC, the NJ Dept. of Health, the Westfield Regional Dept. of Health, and the Borough of Fanwood website.

What does social distancing mean? I am concerned people are not taking it seriously.
“There is no way to have desired impact is unless they stop congregating. Keep children home as much as possible for the next few weeks.”

Are there any COVID-19 confirmed in Fanwood?
“As of this time, no. But it changes rapidly. I don’t want people top to get wrapped up in the case count. We are testing those that meet the criteria. When we have drive-through testing capability, which will provide a more accurate picture.”

Where will the drive-through be?
“At a central location in Union County by the end of the week. (Trinitas and Overlook Hospital also have testing capabilities.

What is done to increase hospital capacity?
“Our federal representatives are taking up a package of bills to address issues. While Overlook and Trinitas don’t seem to be overwhelmed, they are preparing." (The hospitals are now closed to visitors.)

What can each of us do to help?

  1. Practice social distancing
  2. Call on elderly neighbors (pick up items and leave at the door). Stop & Shop in Westfield has instituted hours (6:00 a.m. to 7:30 a.m.) for seniors to go shop

Is it safe to order from restaurants?

“COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, that’s how you become ill. We are not talking about food-born illnesses. Ordering from restaurants is safe.”

Are grants or loans available to cover downtime and possible loss of wages?
“There are state bills to address those issues. Information on all downtown businesses will be up on the Fanwood website. We really want to make sure that they can survive.”

What about childcare centers?
“There is no current guidance what to do about childcare centers. If anyone tests positive, we (the Westfield Health Dept.) are contacted through electronic reporting system and find out close contacts they have had. They will be quarantined.”

What are qualifications for COVID-19 testing?
“It’s provider driven. If someone has lower respiratory symptoms, but don’t test positive for the flu, they will be tested for coronavirus.”

Is it save to have a housekeeper clean my home if she is wearing gloves and a mask?
“If your housekeeper comes to you, remember that they probably go to multiple homes. It’s a personal decision.”

Is it possible to have COVID-19 and the flu?
“We don’t know, but we can check.”

Should we really not leave after 8:00 p.m.?
"Don’t go out for non-essential travel. With social distancing, don’t leave your house unless you have to.

How do you mitigate the psychological impact of an extended isolation period?
“Get fresh air. Do healthy activities. It is extremely important to really take care of ourselves. And it’s a super stressful situation for us all. You can’t turn on TV or see news about coronavirus. Eat healthy and get a good night’s sleep. NJ has started a “warmline” for people to talk 877-294-HELP (4357). Call a friend. Facetime a friend. Support each other.”

At what point will we have new normal – when the percentage drops from peak or when it is at zero?
“It is hard to answer accurately. In China, cases are getting fewer and fewer. That’s good news. In NJ, we are seeing increase of cases daily. By doing everything (social distancing), we have the best chance of shortening the time period.”

Fanwood Police Chief Richard Trigo asked the public that if an officer comes to a resident’s home, they should let the officer know if anyone in the house is sick. People with questions about coronavirus can email COVID19@fanwoodpolice.org. Fanwood police have also offered to bring medical supplies to seniors who are unable to get out. He also said that scheduled road work on Martine Ave., which was to have taken place at night, will now be conducted from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. while school is out.

Fanwood Fire Chief John Piccola was also on hand to reassure the public that his department is ready to respond to requests for help and that they will show up wearing masks and gloves.

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