SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — While people should be attentive to good hygiene, there is no need to panic about the novel coronavirus. This is the message both Maplewood and South Orange are sending to residents.

South Orange Health Officer John Festa said the Village is in communication daily with health organizations at the county, state, and national level. “Last Friday, we had a conference call with the county and that included all of the health officers, the elected officials, and Office of Emergency Management.” The next call will be March 12. He receives county-wide emails weekly, “and we also receive guidance from the CDC,” the Center for Disease Control. He said he is updating the school district, other South Orange government departments, and local day care facilities as needed.

Anna Markarova, the Public Health Nurse for Maplewood Township, said for local public health, so far, so good. “There are people under investigation in New Jersey… but there have been no confirmed cases.

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“Coronavirus is one big disease and there are many strains of it. The one that people are most worried about is the novel coronavirus that is coming from China. Many people can be diagnosed with coronavirus and we just don’t know the strain of it,” Markarova said. The current strain the world is facing, according to the CDC website, “has been named 'SARS-CoV-2' and the disease it causes has been named 'coronavirus disease 2019' (abbreviated 'COVID-19').”

Maplewood is “in constant communication with the New Jersey Department of Health for any changes in the monitoring and surveillance of people that are high risk or medium risk,” Markarova said.

Right now the CDC is focusing on travelers, she said, coming from China, and “with the changes over the weekend we are trying to figure out if people from Italy and South Korea should also be monitored as high risk. The CDC has not contacted anybody yet with updates on it,” but she expects to hear from them this week.

“We don’t want to worry people right now,” she said. “The best thing we can do is what we do every winter for viruses and respiratory hygiene.” 

All the usual precautions prevail, Markarova said: Cover a cough or sneeze with a tissue or cough into your elbow; avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; and stay home if you are feeling sick.

Festa added that cleaning surfaces will clear the virus from hard surfaces such as doorknobs, counters, and even cell phones; he said the virus can stay alive for 48 hours if not disinfected.

Markarova also said getting a flu shot will help protect the individual and the community. It won’t prevent the coronavirus, but “it will be easier to figure out if you have the flu…versus the coronavirus. If you got your flu shot, hopefully you won’t get the flu and if you do, it will be for a shorter time period.”

She added that “for the flu we can swab, but for the coronavirus we have to send it out to the CDC and right now the CDC is working on getting other departments and organizations to be able to test for the coronavirus” so that diagnoses can be made more quickly.

Markarova’s department has created a social media presence, and residents can get updates by following the Maplewood Public Health Division Facebook page. The township has also sent emails to those on their mailing list. Sign up for Maplewood E-Alerts here. South Orange is updating their COVID-19 page on weekly has the Notify Me system for alerts to its residents.


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