WESTFIELD, NJ — A 62-year-old man is Westfield’s third COVID-19 death, news that comes as the town strengthens its efforts to promote physical distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Mayor Shelley Brindle reported the death Tuesday night as she announced new restrictions for local parks to promote social distancing. The measures came as the number of people to test positive for COVID-19 in Westfield rose to 39, and Union County saw more than 100 new cases of the virus confirmed in one day, state and local officials said.

“There seems to be a sense of complacency coming into play as some folks may think the worst is over when, in fact, all indications are that the worst is yet to come,” Brindle said in a statement. “Every day, I am inundated with emails and pictures from residents who are concerned about the lack of social distancing adherence by their neighbors.”

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Brindle advised strongly against neighbors organizing birthday and celebratory “drive bys” for now-distant friends with the warning that such events may still attract bystanders, who could gather close by — a violation of Gov. Phil Murphy’s stay-at-home order.

She also voiced disapproval for a neighborhood parade held by Washington Elementary School to boost the spirits of students and staff physically separated from each other as a means to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

“While I can appreciate the good intentions of the organizers to bring a smile to the faces of these now remote students, I certainly would have discouraged the parade if asked, so as not to encourage families to congregate along the route,” Brindle said.

New restrictions for parks and fields in Westfield take effect beginning at 5 p.m. Friday, Brindle said.

They are as follows:

  • Closure of the tennis courts at Memorial Park, Tamaques Park and Elm Street fields
  • Closure of all basketball courts
  • Closure of all parks to vehicular traffic and parking
  • Closure of all school parking lots

“Our parks will remain open for walking, running, bicycling and taking in nature, as I continue to strongly believe that these spaces provide our community with a tremendous benefit during these unprecedented times,” Brindle said. “However, by eliminating cars, we hope to discourage ongoing group gatherings in any of those locations.”

Brindle thanked Westfield Schools Superintendent Margaret Dolan for extending the restrictions to school district properties in Westfield. Police have been conducting over 30 daily “documented compliance checks” of parks, schools, restaurants and other areas, she said.

“Chief [Christopher] Battiloro and his team are doing their part, and we need all of you to do yours as well by serving as social distance ambassadors,” Brindle said. “If you’re concerned with something you see, take it upon yourself to address it. Please do not resort to public shaming through posting photos of residents on social media.”

Across Union County, 111 more people had tested positive for COVID-19 by Tuesday, New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said in the state’s daily briefing on the topic. It brought the total number of people confirmed to have COVID-19 in Union County to 1,418 cases, the state Health Department figures show.

Gov. Phil Murphy reported Tuesday that 2,196 more people tested positive for COVID-19 bringing the count of cases across New Jersey to 18,696 cases. Since Monday, 69 more New Jersey residents had died from coronavirus, bringing the death toll to 267 people, he said.

“I cannot be any clearer in my call: stay at home before this hits home like it has now for 267 of our families,” Murphy said.

Email Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net | Twitter: @MattKadosh

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