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The Wrap: Covid, Climate Change and Winter Forecast

General practitioner vaccinating old patient in clinic with copy space. Doctor giving injection to senior woman at hospital. Nurse holding syringe before make Covid-19 or coronavirus vaccine.

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Oct. 18-24: 

Covid 

Numbers  

Cape May County’s report on Covid infections showed some improvement this week. The number of active resident Covid cases dropped to 307, the lowest it has been since July.  

There was no real change in the other metrics, with new cases recorded this week at 176 compared to 173 last week.  

The report noted three new Covid fatalities. In the past eight weeks, the county has lost 23 residents to the disease, just about 10% of the 239 lost since the start of the pandemic.  

Vaccinations  

The state’s dashboard shows 58,885 county residents fully vaccinated. That number has been inching upward at a rate of about 400 individuals a week for the last several weeks. About 9% of those fully vaccinated individuals have received a booster shot. Boosters administered, as of Oct. 24, to county residents totaled 5,506.  

Mandatory testing in schools 

School districts have been putting plans in place to comply with the mandatory testing of unvaccinated staff. Two options exist. In one, the school district can sign on with the state testing vendor. In the other, model districts can make their own arrangement with certified testing companies and bypass the state’s vendor. Both methods are in use in the county.  

Risk levels 

The return to a modicum of “normalcy” in daily life can lead some to underestimate the risk levels that remain. COVID Act Now still ranks New Jersey as High Risk and denotes Cape May County as Very High Risk. What drives the designations is the continued daily new case average, which remains about 25 new cases per day.  

Climate Change and Regulations 

Regulations 

While grand engineering plans call for inlet flood gates, a quieter response to climate change is taking place. Regulations are changing at various levels to incorporate climate change risk. What is emerging is a regulatory environment that will continually seek to adapt to the new science on climate change. 

This month, the federal Financial Stability Oversight Council released its report on climate-related financial risk. The report states that “climate-related financial risks” are emerging as “a threat to the financial stability of the country.” The report appears to be a first salvo in an effort to build climate risk analysis into national financial and economic decision making and the regulatory environment. 

Closer to home, New Jersey is increasingly building climate risk analysis into “regulatory reform,” much of it occurring without legislative debate or the enactment of new statutes. The New Jersey Protection Against Climate Threats (NJPACT) is increasingly being incorporated into rulemaking. The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) expects NJPACTinfluenced rulemaking to increase significantly in 2022.  

Who pays? 

This year, we saw the results of the Army Corps of Engineers’ (ACE) $16 billion back bay protection plan for New Jersey. Even with the normal 65% federal contribution, the magnitude of the costs such a plan would place on the state and its municipalities is potentially staggering. Will the money be there? Now, inaction exists on much more modest endeavors.  

A quick look at ACE’s website for the Philadelphia District shows that four separate replenishment and seawall construction projects in Cape May County are still “pending funding.” Here, in New Jersey, a move to increase the shore protection fund from $25 million to $50 million still awaits action in Trenton. 

Winter Forecast  

The appearance of a La Niña for the second year in a row has led the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to predict above average temperatures for much of the northeastern U.S. this winter. A warmer winter might help reduce the financial sting associated with skyrocketing prices for heating fuels. 

Happenings 

Middle Township will become the latest addition to the county dispatch service. The municipality’s government body approved the move this month. Lower Township, Stone Harbor, Avalon, Wildwood Crest and Cape May have all switched to the county effort.  

Avalon is part of an effort that may change the way bay dredging is done. Key to the effort is an emerging consensus on the beneficial uses of most dredge material. This is a shift in past practice that included the expensive trucking of dredge soils to off island locations. The new goal is to relocate dredge materials in the marshes threatened by sea level rise. 

Upper Township celebrated improvements to Beesley’s Point. County Commissioner Will Morey sees the improvements as “a showcase for our creative placemaking initiative.”  

The recent awards of medical marijuana licenses by the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission included no county applicants receiving a license, including INSA, the Massachusetts company that planned to open a medical dispensary in the former La Monica plant. Both Middle and Lower townships modified their ordinances to ease restrictions on recreational cannabis businesses. 

Cape May broke ground on the construction of a new fire station, a project that roiled politics in the city for much of 2020. The city also initiated an effort to gain a payment in lieu of taxes from the U.S. Coast Guard to cover the educational costs of Coast Guard children who attend Lower Cape May Regional School District.  

Lower Township residents are using Spout Off to voice frustration with internetenabled shortterm rentals through apps, like Airbnb. This is a phenomenon many county municipalities are grappling with.  

 Two local leaders received praise, as Assemblyman Antwan McClellan (R-1st) was chosen as Ocean City’s Citizen of the Year and County Commissioner E. Marie Hayes was recognized by the New Jersey Association of Counties as County Commissioner of the Year. 

Wildwoods communities had reason to celebrate. A teen novelist recently published a paranormal novel set in North Wildwood. Meanwhile, the president of the Wildwood Historical Society was honored with a Young Preservationist Award. 

Courthouse, a neighborhood cat who daily made the rounds of municipal offices in Middle Township’s Town Hall, passed away peacefully Oct. 15. The feline was honored with a proclamation by Middle Township Committee.  

Spout Off of the Week 

Wildwood Crest/Wildwood – It seems a shame that some newly paved roads have to be dug up for the gas company. We should be able to talk to each other so that could be coordinated between the parties. Why dig up a newly paved road just months after it was paved? Dig first, then pave, would keep the roadways not only looking good but sealed tight. 

Read more spouts atspoutoff.capemaycountyherald.com.

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Cape May – As an independent who supported Democrat and Republican Presidents, I say Biden needs to step down. He doesn't have the physical and mental strength for another four years.Every time George W….

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Lower Township – A Chinese car manufacturer wants to build a Chinese car factory in Mexico. I hope everybody recognizes the significance of that, but the realist in me says probably not. A proper education system in…

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Cape May Court House – It's been 2 plus years since I reported a pole light out to Atlantic City Electric on their web site. I have called 3 time in those 27 months and received the same answer every time. They are…

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