June 9 – A message from Mayor Manzo regarding COVID-19

From the Desk of the Mayor
Harrison Township, New Jersey

June 9, 2020

Starting this week, I plan to write COVID Updates on Tuesday and Friday going forward. Looking forward to no longer feeling the need to convey this information at quite the same pace and I think we are getting there. I will also write a separate entry on the Science of Well-Being course each week until we complete it.

Now for the numbers, Statewide, the total number of positive tests has reached 164,796. That’s an increase 1,460 since Friday and the statewide positive test rate is holding around 17.5%. There were 254 additional deaths, bringing that total to 12,303.

In Gloucester County, we had 30 more positive tests registered, bringing that total to 2,336. We’ve also had a total of 13,781 negative test results, lowering our positive test rate of 14.5%. We lost 4 more county residents since Friday, bringing that total to 154.

We had 1 additional positive test in Harrison since Friday, bringing our total to 58 positive tests, with 1 death.

Another Reminder: Going forward, all Gloucester County residents can call to schedule a COVID-19 or Antibody Test with no pre-requisites. To schedule a test, please call the COVID-19 Hotline 856-218-4142 between 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM, Monday thru Friday and specify which test you are seeking. You must have an appointment to be administered either test. Keep in mind that when registering for the Antibody Test, you are asked for your Health Insurance information. Therefore, based on your coverage, you may incur a cost.

At his Press Conference today, the Governor announced more easements in the existing restrictions. First, and foremost, he lifted the Stay at Home Order, effective immediately. That means there is no longer a government mandated order to stay at home, which allows for businesses and employers to make that decision concerning their employees. With other restrictions on businesses already slated to expire in the coming weeks, this makes sense.
The easements also include:

  • Raising the indoor “gathering” limitation to 50 people (or 25% of capacity), not including restaurants and bars.
  • Raising the outdoor “gathering” limitation to 100 people now and increasing to 250 on June 22nd and 500 on July 3rd.
  • Public swimming pools allowed to open on June 22nd.
  • In-person Graduation ceremonies allowed after July 6th up to 500 people.

Today’s action follows recent restriction easements allowing restaurants to open with outdoor seating starting June 15th and Salons to open with limited capacity on June 22nd. Even with these easements, the Governor urged state residents to continue to be “responsible and safe” by social distancing and wearing face masks in public.

Last night we joined a resident-initiated Candlelight Vigil in the parking lot of Ella Harris Park recognizing the death of George Floyd and the circumstances related to it. All five members of our Township Committee attended, along with the Command Staff of our Police Department. Chief Mills and I joined the dais and spoke, along with others. The featured speaker was Mr. Deionne Thrbak, a current Director and former Principal in the Bridgeton Public School District. Mr. Thrbak is a US Army Veteran and Elder at the Glory Tabernacle Church in Bridgeton whose mother and brother are retired Police Officers.

His resume implies a unique perspective on the current state of affairs in this country concerning race relations, and Mr. Thybak did not disappoint. I will not attempt to convey his message and run the risk of diluting it. We streamed the event live on our township Facebook Page and you can view the video  on our Facebook page.

During these times of unrest and uncertainty, a message of unity and hope was the objective of this vigil. All who attended would agree that objective was achieved, while also laying a foundation for a continuation of this dialogue in a manner unlike in the past. It calls for uncomfortable conversations and a reckoning with certain realities, from all perspectives. As I stated last night, now is a time for all concerned to hear what is being said and especially be open to perspectives and opinions that don’t align with ours.

The first step to true unity is understanding why someone feels the way they do, before you take issue with it. What facts, personal experiences and influences are the basis for someone’s opinion on a specific topic? How do they differ from your realities? I’ll refer back to my “walk a mile in another man’s shoes” example in emphasizing how important it is to gain some understanding on that level, before trying to engage in a conversation where you know your perspectives might not align perfectly.

Last night’s Vigil was a proud moment for our community, and we look forward to engaging in the conversation going forward. It is cliché’ to refer Dr. Martin Luther King concerning the state of race relations, but it seems appropriate to make a point. Dr. King delivered what is considered the most iconic speech of the 20th century in front of 250,000 people at the Washington Monument and millions on live TV. The 17-minute oratory is known as the I Have a Dream speech, but did you know that those words never appeared in the original draft?

At this pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement and on this grandiose stage, well into his prepared remarks, Dr. King knew the speech was falling short. So, he improvised and launched into a familiar sequence about his aspirations for their plight. Repeating the mantra “I have a dream” eight times as the springboard to a thunderous crescendo, he transformed a moment of failure (by his own estimate) into the iconic symbol of a movement.

So, here’s my point: Perhaps this is another moment to go off-script because what we’ve been doing is falling short. If we all believe that we want our children to “live in a nation where they are not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”, this shouldn’t be so hard. I suggest it isn’t if we start every conversation “in the other man’s shoes” (mentally). No time like the present considering Dr. King delivered the I Have a Dream speech in August of 1963.


Together for Harrison Township,
Lou Manzo
Your Mayor


A message from Mayor Manzo regarding the Coronavirus COVID-19. Learn more