November 23 – A message from Mayor Manzo regarding COVID-19

From the Desk of the Mayor
Harrison Township, New Jersey

To Our Harrison Family: 

We usher in Thanksgiving week still in the grips of uncertainty, as the Coronavirus case count continues to increase. Hospitalization numbers have grown also, though there is a more optimistic prognosis for those who reach that level of illness upon entering a facility. And though the number of deaths related to the COVID-19 virus has also increased since mid-October, they are only a fraction of the numbers we saw in April and May.

Couple that with the recent optimistic updates on a vaccine and there is a flicker of light reemerging in the proverbial tunnel we have been in for the last eight months. Earlier today, AstraZeneca announced that an early analysis of some of its late-stage clinical trials, conducted in the United Kingdom and Brazil, showed that their coronavirus vaccine was “highly effective”. This suggests that the world could eventually have at least three working vaccines — and more supply — to help curb the pandemic. The British-Swedish company, which has been developing the vaccine with the University of Oxford, became the third major vaccine developer this month to announce encouraging early results, following Pfizer and Moderna, which both said that their vaccines were about 95 percent effective in late-stage studies.

No decision has been made, but the consensus among many experts in the U.S. and globally is that healthcare workers should be the first to receive the vaccine. An expert panel advising the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also considering giving high priority to workers in essential industries, people with certain medical conditions and people age 65 and older.

Once a vaccine gets a green light from the Food and Drug Administration, the panel will look at clinical trial data on side effects and how people of various ages, ethnicities and health statuses responded. That will determine the panel’s recommendations to the CDC on how to prioritize vaccination.

Statewide, there were 28,095 new cases recorded this past week. New Jersey’s total positive test count is now 309,588 among the 5,675,266 tests the state has administered since March. We lost 181 more New Jersey residents this past week, that total is now at 14,960.  

Gloucester County recorded 930 new cases in the last week, bringing the countywide total to 8,465 of the 91,331 total tests administered in the county. The death toll in the county rose by 11 to 260.

In Harrison, there were 35 additional positive tests, again setting the high mark for one week. We’ve now had 327 cases in our hometown. Sadly, I report that we lost our 4th resident to the virus this past week; a 79-year-old male. Our thoughts and prayers are with this family, who remains publically unknown. Even so, I ask that you take a moment this holiday week to hold them and the others who have lost a loved one, close to your heart as you spend time with your family.

The table below illustrates the rise, fall and recent surge in the number of positive cases throughout the state, county and Harrison Township.

Last week I introduced information about the hospitalization and death rates to this update in order to provide insight on how they correlate with recent surge in the number of positive tests. In recalling that data, we know the peak of both categories in terms of the number currently hospitalized and the number of deaths recorded on any given day. We know that April 15th was the day New Jersey had the most people hospitalized related to the virus, which was 8,270. We also know that the lowest number of patients in the hospital for the same reason was 249 on September 21st. As of this past Friday, that number stood at 2,505, which is substantially higher than the low point a couple months ago but still far below the high in mid-April.

When we look at the death toll data, we see that the worst day recorded in our state was on April 30th when 458 people died, and the 7-Day Moving Average was 265. The low point was on August 26th when no one died and the 7-Day Moving Average was 3. Yesterday, we lost 15 lives to the virus and the 7-Day Moving Average is up to 27. Again, an increase since the lows of late August but not near the horrific high levels of late April.

We need to maintain this balance as we digest all the numbers flying around about the recent spikes across the board. This should also serve as motivation for each of us to maintain personal responsibility as we seek to protect those around us, especially those who are most vulnerable. Balancing these behavior modifications can be difficult as we enter the holiday season, but it’s really not hard if you think about. We’ve come this far, so what’s a little more sacrifice?

These sacrifices I speak of seem miniscule if you switch places with someone who has been impacted by this virus. I know most of us understand this because of the outpouring of support and love in this wonderful community that I hear about almost daily. This becomes even more prevalent at this time of year and I’ve been asked to make you aware of such an initiative at Harrison Township Elementary School.

Ms. Bridget Stankoski, the Public Relations Representative for Harrison Elementary School, wrote me about a twist on their annual Giving Tree program that we should all know about. Bridget described The Explorer Giving Project like this:

“Every year, Harrison Township School District sponsors a “Giving Tree” in the lobbies of both of our schools, which helps families right here in town. This year, more than ever, we would like to continue with this Giving Project. We are asking our community to join us hand-in-hand in donating Walmart gift cards for our families that are in need during this holiday season. Walmart gift cards will enable families to be able to buy clothing, toys, and other supplies, such as food.”

“We strive to give parents $100 worth of Walmart gift cards per child. Since this usually helps about 130 children, our goal is to raise $13,000 again this year. Starting next week, we are asking able families to join our staff in this worthy project. Please feel free to send in your donated gift cards with your child or bring them to the main office of either school during school hours. We ask that all donations be returned to school by December 11th, which would enable us to distribute to the families.”

“Unfortunately, we will not be able to accommodate any additional gift donations, only gift cards, due to space constraints. Thank you in advance for your help with this project. Without this wonderful, generous community, this project would not be possible!”

Well said, Bridget, and I know that our community will do what they can to help The Explorer Giving Project achieve its goal. If you don’t have kids in school, K-6, consider stopping by the lobbies of either Harrison Township Elementary or Pleasant Valley Schools before December 11th. Tis the Season to show why there is no better gift than being Harrison Strong!

Together for Harrison Township,
Lou Manzo
Your Mayor