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Monday, May 20, 2024

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Pierson Briefs Upper Township Business Group on COVID

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By Camille Sailer

To access the Herald’s local coronavirus/COVID-19 coverage, click here.

UPPER TOWNSHIP – This municipality’s business association invited Freeholder Jeffrey Pierson, responsible for health and human services and a former Upper Township Committee member, to brief members in a zoom meeting format on the latest information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic in the County. Mayor Richard Palombo joined the call along with Blanche Adams, president of the Association and about a dozen association members.

Pierson said, “I’m working harder than ever from home and we have been really active in getting ahead of the curve on coronavirus implications. We had a county task force up and running before the governor started his own executive orders and every initiative and action we’ve made has included a huge amount of input from health workers, businesses and residents.”

Testing Availability for Coronavirus

Pierson then answered questions that had been submitted by participants prior to the call. The first, a critical issue in many people’s minds, had to do with the availability of testing in the county. “We’ve had testing available for a while at Cape Regional Urgent Care in Marmora. I believe it’s a serology test that tests for antigens.” Palombo, a pharmacist as well as mayor, noted, “the antigen test is not known for being totally reliable and has a lot of false negatives. So, you need to be cautious about the results.” Pierson added, “the goal is a test kit for every person. There is $ 12.9 million coming to the states from the federal government for testing. We don’t know yet how that will be distributed. States also are grappling with the issue of how to test migrant farm workers as well as migrant landscapers and any J-1 visa summer employees who come from Europe and Russia to work on our boardwalks.  

Opening for Business

Pierson stressed the county and Covid task forces are “doing everything humanly possible to get all businesses open. Many have been frustrated by the fact that ‘big box’ stores and pharmacies have been allowed to stay open since the beginning of pandemic executive orders curbing commercial operations while small business has really suffered.”

“In the township we also are trying to be creative to get business open, even if it’s just for curbside delivery and take out,” added Palombo. “For example, working with the owner, the large parking lot at the Marmora Shop-Rite could be used for this type of activity with tables set up and social distance protocols in place. We don’t want to have to change our ordinances prohibiting this because that would take by law a couple of months. So, we’re looking at how to use waivers because of the emergency circumstances. We’re considering what kind of signage we can put up too, that would aid businesses to attract customers and serve them,” continued Palombo.

What Happens When the Crowds Hit the Shore?

“Our first couple of cases were individuals from New York who we advised to go back home, and they did so,” said Pierson. “My two daughters work at two different Acmes and they have heard visitors from Pa. say they know they can’t get the coronavirus because of the ‘salt air bubble.’ We have really been inundated with second homeowners staying long periods of time here which has resulted in the shortages of food on the shelves that we’ve all experienced.

“Right now, we have 44 beds and 44 ventilators in the county equipped to take care of Covid patients. If that number surges, maybe we could send patients to Atlantic City if they would take them or to other area hospitals. Every day there are new orders and data, so we are staying flexible and very much on top of the situation each day,” continued Pierson.

Safety Precautions

Pierson explained it’s not a law that one must wear a mask in public except where required by executive order, but, of course, highly recommended, especially if one is ill. A question from a business owner focused on the difficulty of purchasing hand sanitizer and related dispensers. Palombo updated the group on this problem, saying, “we’ve been buying sanitizer and masks in bulk as has Ocean City but in much larger numbers. It’s very expensive and this stuff is difficult to find. Perhaps the business association as a group would have more luck finding sanitizer if you bought in bulk instead of each business.

Also, we’re hoping that we’ll soon see guidance about pharmacies being allowed to compose and mix their own sanitizers using gel and the appropriate amount of virus-killing alcohol which would help with supply.”

Pierson further explained that county inspectors would be making the rounds of hotels, motels, restaurants, group living facilities, and parks as well as shops and other businesses to make sure cleanliness standards were being upheld.

“Our parks were open but not the bathrooms. Now, fortunately, the bathrooms also are open. Inspectors will be doing a lot of visits, a lot unannounced, to keep everyone safe and conditions spic ‘n span. For example, Crest Haven Nursing Home was one of the first group homes to register some COVID numbers and we were quick in shutting it down so I’m happy to report we’ve seen no further virus instances knock wood among residents or staff. The group home in Woodbine, however, by contrast continues to be of very significant concern. We know we’ll see spikes and peaks, but the important thing is to keep the trend flat or down in our community at large.” 

To contact Camille Sailer, email csailer@cmcherald.com.

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