November 16 – A message from Mayor Manzo regarding COVID-19

From the Desk of the Mayor
Harrison Township, New Jersey

To Our Harrison Family:

We begin today with the data that is dominating the headlines and our mindset. as November grows colder and we are seeing more stringent governmental restrictions being reintroduced. Here are the numbers:
 
THE NUMBERS 
The recent surge continues to set records in positive tests, statewide. This past week there has been 24,840 new cases. This is the second highest weekly total since the outbreak began, only eclipsed by a week in early April that saw more than 32,000 new cases. New Jersey’s total COVID-19 positive test count is now 281,493. New Jersey has administered 5,339,070 tests since March. Keep this number in mind, below I will present how it correlates with the hospitalization and mortality rates. We lost 139 more New Jersey residents this past week, bringing the total to 14,779. Let’s keep their families in our thoughts.
 
Gloucester County recorded 760 new cases this past week, bringing the countywide total to 7,535 in the 85,399 total tests administered in Gloucester County. The death toll in the county rose by 5 in the last week, bringing the total to 249 since the outbreak began.
 
In Harrison, there were 33 additional positive tests for the COVID-19 virus, again setting the high mark for one week totals. We’ve now had 292 cases in our hometown with 3 deaths. 
 
The table below illustrates the rise, fall and recent surge in the number of positive cases throughout the state, county and Harrison Township.
 
 
 
TRENTON ACTION
The rise in these numbers have triggered action from Trenton. On the heels of the restrictions announced last week, today the Governor announced new restrictions. Indoor gatherings will be dropped from 25 to 10 people and outdoor gatherings from 500 to 150 people with Thanksgiving 10 days away and other holidays fast approaching. The new indoor limits take effect 6 a.m. Tuesday (tomorrow) and the new outdoor limits next Monday, Nov. 23rd.  However, current indoor limits on weddings, funerals, movie theaters, performances, religious services, and political activities — up to 25% of a venue’s capacity, with a maximum of 150 people — will remain in effect. Outdoor religious services and political activities will continue to have no limit.

These new restrictions do affect house parties and other indoor gatherings, such as holiday dinners and events. It will also affect the number of spectators allowed at youth and high school sporting events and practices.
 
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
 I have spoken with a lot of people over the last couple weeks, as the handwriting was on the wall for increased restrictions. These conversations took place with government officials, business owners, teachers, medical professionals and residents from all walks of life, here and outside of the region. The opinions and perspectives were wide-ranging, as you might imagine. What is the most effective course of action? Should the Governor further restrict the economy and our lifestyle? How much? Should that reach include the schools and in-classroom learning options? Is your head spinning yet? Has it ever stopped spinning since mid-March, when this nightmare began?
 
I want to take a minute and add some perspective to the numbers in the chart above, which I’ve been including in this weekly update shortly after it began. I did so to keep you all grounded in where we’ve come from in hopes of maintaining a feeling that the worst is behind us. The headlines everywhere over the last eight weeks, or so, have indicated otherwise and the trend in my chart supports that conclusion. But, I believe that if we dig a little deeper into “the numbers”, it is possible to feel more optimistic.
 
You’ll recall that last week I adjusted the data I share with you here to include information on hospitalization rates in order to correlate the massive surge in positive tests we are seeing with the morbidity (illness) rate. To refresh your memory from last week, I conveyed that “in looking at New Jersey’s COVID-19 hospitalization numbers, we see that the number of people hospitalized peaked on April 15th at 8,270. That number slowly decreased on a daily basis from that point, dipping to about 5,000 by early May, 2,500 by June, 1,000 by July and under 500 by early August. The lowest number of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 in the state of New Jersey was 249 on September 21st. That number has slowly risen since then, eclipsing 700 by October 1st, over 1,000 by the end of the month.” As of yesterday, the number of New Jersey residents hospitalized due to COVID-19 is 2,000.
 
So, as I concluded last week, there is definitely a correlation between the number of positive tests and hospitalizations, but we are nowhere near the hospitalization high-water mark of 8,270 on April 15th. This week, as promised, I am adding data concerning the number of deaths occurring in New Jersey due to the COVID-19 virus, correlating the positive test case numbers to the mortality (death) rate.
 
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides the raw number of daily deaths and the 7-Day Moving Average (7DMA). I will use that data here to provide some perspective to the current headlines. Looking back, the CDC told us that the height of the death rate was on April 30th, when 458 New Jersey residents lost their lives to the Coronavirus. The 7-Day Moving Average (7DMA) that day was 265, meaning an average of 265 people were dying in our state every day, at that time. By mid-May the 7DMA had dropped to 244 and thirty days later, by June 15th, it was down to 100. Mid-July saw the average drop to 30 and on August 15th the 7-Day Moving Average for the COVID-19 death rate in the state of New Jersey was 5; and it stayed there until late October, when it began to climb connected to this recent surge. That 7-Day Moving Average is 19 as of yesterday.
 
Therefore, this confirms that the recent surge in positive cases IS connected to the number of deaths we will see from the virus. But again, the current average number of people dying in New Jersey does not approach the levels we saw in April and May, when it was 265 per day. The medical professionals attribute this to several factors which include a wealth of knowledge and experience gained from the initial stages of dealing with this novel virus. Not to mention, better therapeutics and treatment protocols.
 
STAY THE COURSE
For me, that’s the good news I found when digging a bit deeper into the numbers. But I will also tell you that some of the conversations I mentioned earlier made me feel a bit ill. This sick feeling is rooted in the stories I’m hearing about the blatant disregard by some people for the health and safety protocols which we are all familiar with. Yes, this will be me talking in my “Dad Voice” to the community once again. I know we are all tired of the masks, handwashing, distancing and social limitations. We just want it to be over. And yes, I know some of you just don’t think it’s as bad as it’s made out to be. And of course, I understand if you are at your wits end with the government restrictions on your ability to make a living and provide for your families. We all get it because we are all living it.
 
But, at the end of the day, only you can control your behavior. Though the science indicates that this COVID-19 virus is more contagious than other viruses and it will spread, common sense says we can control that to a point. Practice the basics of wearing a mask, washing your hands frequently and distancing from others. Yes, that means limiting your normal social interaction. If you choose to attend an event, such as a wedding or larger gathering, DO NOT turn around and frequent your favorite bar or restaurant and expose those you interact with, to that multiplier. For goodness sake, if you decided to vacation in Florida or another high-risk area, you should absolutely self-quarantine for the prescribed time. That means not putting your kids back in school immediately when you get back. There, I said it! 
 
If we want to move beyond these government restrictions, which I despise, we must exhibit the required personal responsibility. That’s the bottom line: You must police yourself and eliminate the consideration that the Governor has the right to do so for you.
 
A LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL
After that scolding, LOL, I will end on a much lighter, uplifting note. In speaking with a good friend of mine over the weekend, I was reminded that today marks the final day of Diwali in the Indian culture. Diwali is the five-day Festival of Lights, celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the world. The holiday represents new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil, and light over darkness. The traditions include specific days to recognize and honor the relationship between husband and wife and between siblings. People decorate, light their homes and wear their best colorful outfits.
This year, Diwali coincides with their New Year, so join me in wishing our neighbors of Indian decent a wonderful year ahead. In these turbulent and uncertain times, the Diwali vision of a path lit by millions of lights is welcome symbolism as we look to the future. Carry that vision and remain Harrison Strong!

 
 
 
 
 
 

Together for Harrison Township,
Lou Manzo
Your Mayor