SOUTH ORANGE/MAPLEWOOD, NJ — The coronavirus transmission rate is down for both towns, but South Orange has lost another resident to the virus.

During yesterday's Board of Health meeting within the Board of Trustees meeting, John Festa, health officer for South Orange, said he confirmed a COVID-19 death on Sunday, bringing the total number of residents lost to seven. He relayed to the Trustees that the Village has 658 cumulative total cases and 9,850 negative test cases.

The Village's COVID-19 dashboard shows the seven-day average has descended from a high on Dec. 7, at 7.29 cases per day, to its current 4.71 cases per day for this past week.

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After Festa delivered his report, Village Trustee Bob Zuckerman asked him about Essex County issuing case numbers that are different from the Village's. Festa answered that “the [county's] numbers quite often have not been correct.” Festa added that he does not count a case or a death until he can confirm that it was a South Orange resident.

A lot of the discrepancy is due to “who has jurisdiction when cases come in,” added Village President Sheena Collum. She said she advises residents to “rely on our local numbers because they're the ones that have been verified, that Mr. Festa and his office have followed up on.”

“Until there is a confirmation, we don't just share what came from the county. John in his thoughtfulness tracks everything. So we know that our local numbers are the most accurate,” Collum concluded.

TAPinto SOMA also reached out to Candice Davenport, health officer for Maplewood Township, for their cumulative case load. Davenport reported that it stood at 1058 as of last Friday, Feb. 12, with 33 deaths of residents attributed to the virus. 

“The downward trend of cases is a positive sign,” said Davenport in an email to TAPinto SOMA. But, she warned, people should not lighten up on prevention strategies. 

“We still ask people to avoid non-essential travel, especially with the new COVID virus variants, and to still continue to wear face masks, social distancing and avoid large crowds.”

Looking toward spring, she said, “as the weather warms, outdoor gatherings are better than indoor. If you're going indoors for a gathering please wear a face mask.”


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