SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- The Township of Scotch Plains hosted a Town Hall meeting (in which the public was asked to stay home and watch on cable access and on Facebook Live) to address concerns about coronavirus (COVID-19) on Monday, March 16, at 4:00 p.m.
Mayor Al Smith provided updates on what he learned during the call with Union County officials and from Gov. Phil Murphy's press conference earlier in the day. Among the restrictions:
- All schools are closed.
- Racetracks, movie theaters, gyms, casinos and other entertainment venues are closed.
- Non-emergency travel is discouraged from 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
- Non-essential businesses must close by 8:00 p.m.
- Essential businesses (grocery stores, pharmacies, and gas stations) may stay open.
- Restaurants may only do take-out orders. Bars are not permitted to serve drinks.
- No groups of more than 50 people may gather.
- Residents are encouraged to stay at home as much as possible.
Police Chief Ted Conley informed residents that officers are on duty but will stay by and let the EMTs do medical work unless a life-threatening situation arises. Chief Conley said that residents should not be gathering to play sports and that the basketball courts at Kramer Manor have been chained.
Deputy Township Manager Margaret Heisey said that Town Hall business will continue and that public Meetings will go on without public (but they will not take votes). The Planning and Zoning meetings are postponed until May, she said.
"There will be an email that will be answered COVIDfirstname.lastname@example.org if someone has questions," Heisey said.
"Parks and fields remain open. We encourage people to go outside, but athletic equipment and the golf course are closed. Public school fields and private school fields are closed."
Residents will be able to pay their taxes and submit building plans if they you are delivering something that can be dropped off in a basket at the police department.
De Zhang of the Rahway Health Dept. gave COVID-19 updates.
"Social distancing is a way to eliminate exposure to disease such as COVID-19. It’s a way to distance people and limit gathering. Avoid touching your face, nose, mouth and eyes. Don’t share food and drinks. Don’t shake hands. It’s very important to wash hands," Zhang said. "I want to emphasize this. We are prepared to do contact tracing (if someone contracts the virus)."
Thus far, there have been no cases of coronavirus reported in Scotch Plains.
Skip Paal of the Scotch Plains Fire Dept. said that residents can expect firefighters will show up at calls wearing gloves and a mask.
"Our firefighters are ready to go. We have suspended non-emergency inspections, but we will do inspections for people selling their homes," he said.
Chief Caroline Sorge of the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad said that "when people call, there will be different questions, including respiratory questions, so we know who we are approaching." She also reported that the squad will be wearing extra protective equipment.
Dennis VanNatta, OEM Director, asked for the public's help.
"We are asking you to be part of the team. We all must cooperate what the CDC and the local health department are telling us... If we 'lower the curve,' we reduce the time frame for getting back to normal," he said. :We are looking forward to recovery getting kids back to school and supporting local businesses. Without the public's support, we won’t get past this."
"We are dealing with something we have not seen before. This is not a reason to panic," VanNatta added. "Check the website for information. If you have questions, email them. We will try to get to them when we can."
According to Mayor Smith, NJ Transit is operating at full capacity and making an extra effort to clean.
"You can feel safe," he said. "There is no travel ban between New York and New Jersey at this time. We do not have a curfew. We ask you to remain home in home 8 pm to 5 am. If people are not compliant, we will issue a curfew."
"We are all soldiers in this war. Let’s not be contentious with each other. Let’s try to support our businesses as best we can," Mayor Smith added. "The goal is to cut virus from spreading, lower the curve, and bring the Township and whole country back to a normal state."
"Scotch Plains government is not shutting down. We are enabling you to get your work down with the Township from home. The orders are to prevent people to aggregating," he said. "Apparently, that was what was observed over the weekend. That’s how the virus gets spread."
"I’m going to ask the people of Scotch Plains to work together and to make this our finest hour," said Mayor Smith, quoting Apollo 13. "Let’s get through this and stay safe."
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