CALDWELL, NJ — In order to comply with recommended guidelines amid the global health crisis, the Caldwell Borough Council met virtually for its regularly scheduled meeting and invited the public to interact with the elected officials as they provided updates about the borough’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayor John Kelley took the opportunity to publicly acknowledge Office of Emergency Management (OEM) Coordinator Mark Guiliano, Director of Human Services Maria Burak and Police Chief James Bongiorno as well as their staff members for their efforts, dedication and initiatives during this unprecedented crisis. He also expressed gratitude toward the local residents and the business owners, noting that following the guidelines and restrictions mandated by the governor and suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been “a big sacrifice for all of us.”
The mayor reported he participated in a conference call over the weekend with Senators Robert Menendez and Corey Booker, who provided information for “everything they were doing at the federal level, including information on the proposed stimulus package.” Kelley also joined conference calls with Gov. Phil Murphy, who provided additional information to local leaders as to what the state government is doing, and Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, who Kelley said has been in constant contact with the mayors regarding county activities and supports.
On behalf of the OEM, Guiliano thanked the members of the governing body for their full support and assistance, stating that “they are not holding anything back” when it comes to providing everything the OEM needs.
As he provided updates for the community, Guiliano explained that he, Burak and Bongiorno had a “stakeholder meeting” via phone with Murphy and the New Jersey Department of Health at the start of the month that outlined the “potential and details and what was basically heading our way.” On March 12, the Essex County OEM hosted a similar conference call with the county’s municipalities to offer further guidance as to how to prepare and what resources would be needed, he said.
Following the county meeting, Caldwell’s local planning council—which is a consortium of municipal operations, including some from the private sector—began to formulate a plan. Business Administrator Thomas Banker coordinated a local meeting to discuss contingency plans in the event that employees were out sick and to discuss closures within the community. Since then, Bongiorno, Burak and Guiliano have been holding daily meetings.
On March 17, the Borough of Caldwell declared a local health emergency, and the emergency management team has been working 12-hour days to keep up with all the information that is being provided by the various agencies at the federal, state and county levels.
Guiliano also reiterated that the Borough Caldwell shares services with Bloomfield for the health department needs. He said that local health director Mike Fitzpatrick has been in touch daily to provide directives and assistance.
Guiliano reported that he has also been in daily contact with the “high-risk” entities in town, such as senior citizen homes, Caldwell University and the West Essex First Aid Squad (WEFAS). On behalf of the WEFAS, David Black confirmed that the squad has been able to keep up with transports thus far.
“It is a particularly stressful time, and they are volunteers,” said Guiliano as he thanked the WEFAS for it hard work. “They are angels, and we are really just very lucky to have them.”
On behalf of the police department, Bongiorno assured residents that the department has continued to operate at full capacity.
“There should be no concerns regarding the police department not responding to a situation,” he said. “We will always be there, and all of our officers are working…As of now, there has been no direct exposure.”
With respect to the public health emergency, Bongiorno confirmed that all officers are wearing personal protective gear. He also stated that the borough “has done a really good job complying with” the governor’s executive ordered to “stay at home” unless absolutely essential.
The chief noted that Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has provided police departments the authority to take action for violators, spanning from petty misdemeanors to indictable offenses. However, he reiterated that there have yet to be any instances where Caldwell officers “had to shut anybody down” and thanked the community for its cooperation.
Regarding vehicular traffic in the borough, Bongiorno reported that the 18,500-to-20,000 vehicles typically seen daily at the intersection of Roseland and Bloomfield Avenues has decreased significantly to a daily average of about 7,200 vehicles. He remarked he would like to see that number decrease even further.
The chief also cautioned the community to be aware of scams—specifically warning them to be on the lookout for Emails claiming to be from the CDC, phishing Emails seeking confirmation of personal information and people going door to door claiming to be from the CDC, Saint Barnabas Medical Center, or other entities.
Although he has not seen this yet in Caldwell, Bongiorno said it has been reported in neighboring municipalities and advised residents to check the police department’s webpage for more information.
Additionally, the Borough of Caldwell reported on Thursday that local first responders are in specific need of masks, disposable gloves, disposable gowns, disinfectant spray and hand sanitizer. Residents interested in donating supplies are urged to contact the OEM at 973-403-4629.
Burak reported during the meeting that there were four positive cases of COVID-19 within the borough. That number has since increased, although the exact total has not been confirmed.
Noting that this is also flu and allergy season and that the incubation period for COVID-19 could last up to 14 days, Burak advised that anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher, a consistent cough and/or difficulty breathing should immediately isolate themselves.
“We ask for intervention,” she said. “Avoid close contact with individuals and contact your health provider…Individuals with no symptoms are not recommended to be tested at this time, and individuals with mild symptoms should stay home and follow the guidance of their healthcare professional.”
Burak explained that when the health department hears of a positive COVID-19, the public health nurse follows a monitoring process that includes an interview of the affected individual to determine who he or she has been in contact with. Once identified, those people are then contacted and informed that they have been exposed.
She also reminded residents that there is a COVID-19 hotline (1-800-962-1253) available to answer questions at anytime.
The Caldwell Food Pantry is currently open to residents, and delivery options are available by calling 973-403-4623. The senior transportation service will also be making a supermarket run on Friday at 6:30 a.m. Seniors who are not currently ill should