November 30 – A message from Mayor Manzo regarding COVID-19

From the Desk of the Mayor
Harrison Township, New Jersey

To Our Harrison Family: 

I hope that you had an enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday, albeit a little different, I would imagine. We continue to prove that we can adapt to any circumstance, as this past weekend evidenced. My Thanksgiving Day table, which normally seats around 20 people, had four attendees. A pre-dinner gathering that included my parents and in-laws and brother took place in my back yard with all the necessary distancing……and it was great. After an hour or so, we sent them off with the normal Thanksgiving dinner goodies we had prepared, all packaged up like it came from a restaurant. Everyone was happy and I’m thinking we have a new formula for all future holidays, lol! Only kidding…. I love gatherings at our home with friends and family and I’m looking forward to having them again. My point is that adapting to a previously unthinkable scenario was easier and more fulfilling than first thought.

I will tell you that the same feelings apply to the Miracle on Main that took place over the weekend. The thought of trying to replace the Lights on Main extravaganza with a different version of the seasonal tradition we are accustomed to, seemed impossible at first. But we adapted and got buy-in for this weekend-long, more relaxed and casual program and voila…. the miracle happened! The street came alive with pockets of activity everywhere and I want to thank all involved with making it happen…. our township Recreation Commission and the Mullica Hill Business Association, as well as the sponsors and all the participating business owners.
 
Our objective was to provide a slice of seasonal normalcy for our residents, support our local Merchants and to do so in a safe manner. Much thought and discussion took place focused on the safety aspect of the program and the result confirms the plan was solid. For those who thought any activity was too risky, clearly, the option to avoid the street completely was their choice. But for those who felt safe with their household members walking the street and briefly mingling with others, while wearing masks, the Miracle on Main backdrop did not disappoint! How awesome does Main Street look?! Again, thanks to our Public Works team and vendors who made it happen. And a special thanks to Township Committee members, Julie DeLaurentis and Adam Wingate, for their efforts in coordinating the activity and transforming Main Street into our own private Christmas village.
 
TASTE OF THE SEASON
This upcoming Saturday we’ll continue the holiday festivities on Main Street with the Mullica Hill Business Association sponsored, A Taste of the Season. From 5-9pm we will have another opportunity to stroll our beautifully decorated Main Street with over 20 businesses providing delicious holiday treats. You can find tickets and more information here. I hope to see you there.
 
On the COVID front, we continue to be focused on the progress towards a vaccine and the recent surge in positive cases. The national news about a vaccine continues to gain momentum, with some reports stating a vaccine will be rolled out by mid-December, only two weeks from now! We will keep you posted on that, keeping in mind that the early phases of distribution will likely focus on Front Line Healthcare workers and First Responders, followed by the most vulnerable among us. As for the state of the surge, let’s look at the numbers:
 
THE NUMBERS 
Statewide, there were 27,716 new cases recorded this past week. That brings the total number of COVID-19 cases in New Jersey to 337,304, as there have been more than 6 million tests administered since March. We lost 204 more New Jersey residents this past week, bringing that total to 15,164.  
 
Gloucester County recorded 846 new cases in the last week, bringing the countywide total to 9,311 in the 103,974 total tests administered in the county, with 12,643 of those tests coming in the last week! Think about that. Remember when there was a limited amount of testing available here? We are averaging nearly 2,000 tests being administered daily in Gloucester County now. The death toll in the county rose by 13 in the last week, bringing that total to 273 since the outbreak began.
 
In Harrison, there were 47 additional positive tests for the COVID-19 virus, bringing our total to 374 since the outbreak began. We have lost 4 Harrison residents to this horrible virus.
 
The table below illustrates the rise, fall and recent surge in the number of positive cases throughout the state, county and Harrison Township.

 
 
 
MAINTAINING A BALANCE
We will stick with providing you with the data concerning hospitalizations and death rates in New Jersey to use as a barometer in evaluating the increased number of positive cases being reported recently. Keep in mind that the high-water mark of hospitalizations was 8,270 in mid-April and last week’s total stood at 2,505. Today, we report that number has grown to 2,961 New Jersey residents hospitalized with a COVID-related illness,
 
In looking at the death toll number in the same manner, we know the worst day recorded in our state was on April 30th when 458 people died and the 7-Day Moving Average was 265. Last week those numbers were 15 deaths the day prior to my report, with a 7-Day Moving Average of 27. Yesterday, we lost 13 residents and the 7-Day Moving Average is 31.
 
In evaluating these numbers, we are staying grounded in the worst stages of the virus compared to today and also looking for a plateau (hopefully) in this recent surge. We are also understanding the relationship between the positive case numbers and the hospitalization/death rates, which is different than it was in April and May. Today, even the Governor stated, as he announced the newest restrictions, “this is not the same as in the Spring.” He went on to say that we “have better data and science now.”
 
TRENTON ACTION
At this Press Conference today, the Governor announced additional restrictions to combat the increase in positive COVID-19 cases as we head into the winter months. They are:

  • Indoor high school, youth, and adult recreation sports in New Jersey will be put on hiatus until January 2nd under the new rules announced today, effective at 6 AM this Saturday, December 5th. The order does not affect indoor collegiate or professional sports, the sources said. But it will apply to youth, high school, and adult league basketball, ice hockey, swimming, and other indoor sports. Many high school sports have already been put off until January.
  • New Jersey’s outdoor gathering limit will drop to 25 people (down from 150) effective at 6 AM on Monday, December 7th until January 2nd. This new restriction maintains the exemptions for outdoor dining, weddings, funerals, and religious and political activities protected under the First Amendment. Despite the new outdoor gathering limit, outdoor sports will still be allowed because the people needed for games — athletes, coaches, referees, and personnel — will not count toward the 25-person limit. But spectators will be limited to 25.

These restrictions, by definition, are temporary and we need to stay diligent through the holiday season. Also, by definition, diligence means wearing masks, distancing, washing your hands repeatedly and limiting your exposure to those outside your household. Those who are most vulnerable with underlying conditions need to take extra precaution and limit their activity further. With the proper protocols in place, it is possible to find the balance you seek or need without endangering yourself, your housemates or those vulnerable or elderly in your inner circle. Be smart. If you decide to go to a restaurant for dinner, wear a mask when not eating or drinking and wash your hands thoroughly when you get home. Stay #HarrisonStrong!

 

Together for Harrison Township,
Lou Manzo
Your Mayor