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The Wrap: Covid and Municipal Actions

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The Wrap’ is a feature from the Herald editorial team that offers our take on the news of the week. Get ‘The Wrap’ in your inbox every Monday by signing up at https://bit.ly/HeraldWrapLearn more about J. Byrne Insurance.

Dec. 21-27 

Deaths Grow with Rising Case Count 

This week saw more reported Covid-related deaths in Cape May County than any other one-week period since the pandemic began. According to county reports, 11 county residents succumbed to the virus. Four of the 11 were residents of long-term care facilities, with the other seven community-based fatalities.  

The average age of the 11 individuals was 71, but the range in age was from a 53-year-old Lower Township man to a 93-year-old Dennis Township woman. 

The week also saw over 300 new cases for the eighth straight week, accompanied by a rising number of cases removed from quarantine, numbering 3,510 at week’s end.  

The Cape May County Health Department removed an almost equal number of individuals from quarantine each week, keeping the active case total static and, at times, declining. This week ends with the active case total for county residents at 484. It remained in the range of 500 active cases for the past five weeks. For the two-day report covering Dec. 25 and 26, the county showed 73 new cases and four fatalities

The point that health officials keep making is that the pandemic remains and shows no signs of weakening. The vaccine is here and is being dispensed, but the ability to inoculate a large segment of the general population is likely months away. 

The most recent state weekly Covid Activity Level Report shows the southeast region, comprised of Cumberland, Atlantic, and Cape May counties, with the highest percent positivity rate in the state and one of the highest case rates per 100,000 of the population. 

Long-standing traditions, like  polar bear plunges, were put on hold due to the virus’s community spread. 

U.S. Coast Guard training activities were paused, as three companies at the Coast Guard base, in Cape May, endured active Covid cases, forcing wider quarantines. 

Crisis counseling is being established for health care workers and others on the frontlines of the fight with the disease, while new attempts at dealing with pandemic isolation are being established. 

The state redirected an additional $5 million in Covid relief funds to help families and small businesses devastated by the pandemic. 

Municipal Actions 

West Wildwood Mayor Christopher Fox’s ethics hearings were postponed again. Fox was first fined $24,900 by the state Local Finance Board, in May 2019. Fox will serve his last day as mayor Dec. 31 after losing his reelection bid. 

Also, in West Wildwood, Police Chief Jacquelyn Ferentz will see an increase of $17,000 a month in her judgment payments from a lawsuit she won against the borough, in 2017.  

The increase was included in the terms of her new five-year contract that was approved by the current slate of commissioners after they lost their reelection bids. 

At an Ocean City council meeting, plans for a large wind farm off the coast were met with concern about its potential impact on the local tourism economy. 

Middle Township Committee approved a larger deferred payment of school tax funds to the school district, as a way to meet expected financial challenges in the upcoming municipal budget. The delay is allowed because the school district operates on a different fiscal year than the municipality. 

Middle officials also approved the storage of dredged materials from a local marina for up to one year before the soils will be repurposed to build up parts of the wetland. 

Thirty new indictments came from a Cape May County grand jury this week, as efforts continue to catch up on the months of missed activity when courts were closed due to the pandemic. 

The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs announced 224 federal housing vouchers can be used to provide affordable housing opportunities. There is no news on how the vouchers will be distributed across the state’s 21 counties. 

Dennis Township Committee approved a resolution asking that the proposed Atlantic City Electric (ACE) rate increases be rejected. ACE said it seeks the rate increases to recover $67 million spent on making improvements to the resiliency of its infrastructure. 

Cape May County freeholders appointed a family support coordinator to aid families and individuals dealing with substance abuse and other challenges.   

And… 

The Herald published several “yule submissions” from county residents, speaking to their experience and the meaning of the holidays, even in an age of Covid. 

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