WESTFIELD, NJ — (Updated at 2:05 p.m.) Town officials briefed the public on the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, Friday afternoon. Here are the top takeaways from the broadcast. [Full broadcast embedded below text.]
School closures? Westfield public schools will close indefinitely beginning Monday as the district transitions to remote learning, officials said. Nobody from the school district was represented at Friday afternoon’s briefing.
Where is the virus? As of 12:30 p.m. Friday, there are 29 “presumptive positive” cases of COVID- 19 across New Jersey, including one in Union County — a Berkeley Heights man who is quarantined at Overlook Medical Center in Summit. As of Friday, there are no “presumptive positive” cases of the coronavirus in Westfield.
Can you tell me about police services? Police are conducting as many transactions over the phone and email, including taking routine police reports, as possible, Police Chief Chris Battiloro said. The department, he said, is also considering irregular requests for service to members of the public who might be advised against venturing out. “If there’s no one else to provide it for you, we will seek to do that,” Battiloro said.
What about helping seniors? The town is compiling a list of the elderly who may need additional assistance as coronavirus spreads statewide, Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle said. “This is the time that you want to be helping the neighbors, checking on the seniors, sharing the toilet paper that you can’t get at the grocery store,” Brindle said.
Should we cancel play dates? Westfield Regional Health Department Director Megan Avallone said that children seem to be less impacted by the virus than others. Parents, however, should be particularly careful if there is someone elderly or with a compromised immune system in the house. “I don’t think there’s a one size fits all answer for a question like that, but I do encourage parents to think it through,” Avallone said.
Can I go for a walk? While health officials are advising against gathering with large groups of people, people are not confined to their homes. “It’s OK to go for a walk outside. It's OK to go for a walk with your husband and children. The goal is not to gather with a lot of people,” Town Administrator Jim Gildea said.
Should we be worried about food shortages? No. While health officials have advised the public to stock up, it is not because they anticipate food shortages, Avallone said. It is in an effort to keep sick people away from public spaces. “If you start to feel crummy, and there’s nothing to eat in the house, there’s a really good chance that you’re going to go to the store when you’re feeling crummy,” she said.
What about Westfield municipal meetings? Large gatherings set to happen on town property are canceled through April 19. However, the business of government must continue, Gildea said. The public is being encouraged to view public meetings livestreamed on the town’s Facebook page. The town is looking into taking public comments via a recorded line, he said.
Have general COVID-19 questions? Call the public call center at 1-800-222-1222 or 1-800-962-1253 if in NJ but using an out-of-state cell phone.
View a recording of the livestream below: