WEST ORANGE, NJ — Reflecting on the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the Township of West Orange, Mayor Robert Parisi recently updated the public on the local statistics as they relate to senior living facilities, township employees and more.
On what the mayor termed "a good day" on Sunday, West Orange saw an increase of only four COVID-19 cases, which is the smallest total of additional cases that the township has seen in one day all month. West Orange had a total of 638 "current active" cases as of Sunday, which does not include cases that have either been closed, recovered or transferred to another municipality. The township has had a total intake of 1,177 cases and 154 attributed to the coronavirus.
“I don’t know of a situation in any of our lives since World War II where every American can literally say they know of someone who’s been affected by this,” said Parisi. “Every one of us knows someone who’s passed and every one of us knows someone who knows someone who’s passed.”
According to the mayor, the township recently reached a turning point where the number of negative tests surpassed the number of active tests.
Parisi said he found it “encouraging” to see that thousands of West Orange residents testing negative for the coronavirus despite showing symptoms.
The mayor also indicated that nearly 65 percent of the deaths being associated with COVID-19 in West Orange have been from one of the 15 senior housing facilities located within township, which includes 11 long-term care facilities and four senior residential communities.
He also explained that the trend is reversed for reported cases, with only 23 percent of them coming from senior facilities and 77 percent coming from private residences as of last week.
“What that tells you is what we were warned as a nation several months ago about who is the most vulnerable to succumb to this virus—it’s the senior population, especially those with underlying issues,” said Parisi, adding that although it is a “blessing” to have so many senior facilities in the township, the township has been taking a “big hit” due the heavy senior population.
According to Parisi, the residential communities “are doing much better from a numbers' perspective than the long-term and assisted-living facilities,” but he could not explain the why.
“I don’t want to generalize and I’m certainly no expert, but I think [it’s] just the nature of buildings,” said Parisi. “As an example, the Renna House and the Degnan House [are] actually apartments; and because it’s independent living, there is not necessarily people that need to come together like you are in an assisted living or long-term care facility…
“So, with the Renna House or in Degnan House, […] it’s easier to stay in an apartment when you don’t have to go to the dining hall together.”
He added that residents of the assisted living and long-term care facilities are more likely to have underlying medical issues, which makes them more susceptible to the coronavirus.
Outside these facilities, Parisi noted that township employees have been affected as well, with three police officers, seven firefighters, one member of the health department and one member of the department of public works all testing positive for COVID-19.
In other news, the mayor reported that a testing center is slated to open within the Township of West Orange. Since it is not being opened through the municipality, no further details are available at this time.
“We’ve been working closely with a local doctor who approached the town,” said Parisi. “We have an agreement with the Executive Drive site, but there’s still not a confirmed opening yet, but we hope to have that open soon.”
Parisi said the testing site will be similar to other testing centers in that it will require a referral from a health care professional.
“There’s just not enough availability of testing to test anyone who wants to get tested,” he said. “But there will be a website and a link to connect with a doctor via telemedicine to review symptoms and hopefully get people a referral.”
More information will be shared as it becomes available to the public.