Thursday, February 29, 2024


The Wrap: Covid, Economic Recovery, ‘War of the Worlds’ and Diocese of Camden



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Oct. 25-31:  
Cape May County’sweekly report on Covid cases showed significant improvement this week. The number of active residentCovid cases dropped to 260, an over 40% decline since last month. 
The number of new cases this week, at 116, declined by 35% compared to last week. After several weeks in which the death toll averaged three residents per week, the report showed no new fatalities. The average number of new cases is 17 per day, a level not seen in three months. 
The pandemic remains a constant danger, but life seems to be returning to a form of normalcy. Gov. Phil Murphy warned this week, “We have had good numbers before and this thing took a turn we weren’t expecting,” referring to the surge in infections caused by the delta variant. His answer has been an uptick in vaccine mandates.
Vaccinations are now mandated for public and private school staff, state government workers, health care personnel, staff who work in long-term care facilities, and, beginning this week, staff at childcare facilities. Schools also remain under a mask mandate. 
School workers who are not fully vaccinated must undergo weekly testing, a requirement that has led to significant logistical issues as private laboratories and diagnostic vendors set up onsite or virtual testing services paid for with $267 million in federal relief monies.
While resistance has even taken the form of organized protest, the number of those fully vaccinated continues to increase. In Cape May County, 66% of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to Covid Act Now’s tracking website, with 73% having at least one dose. Individuals with booster shots have now hit 20% of those fully vaccinated in the county.
Economic Recovery
Cape May County released data this week that showed the occupancy tax paid by tourists visiting this summer was up 20% over its level in the record 2019 summer. Despite the pandemic, labor shortages and a return to work and school for many, the county recovered its 2020 losses in lodging revenue in the first six months of 2021. July and August saw over $4 million each month in occupancy tax collections, by far the best return in the state. 
In 2020, the county lost $1.5 billion in visitor spending, causing some local businesses to go under. The faster-than-expected rebound shows the enduring attraction of the county as a place to be during summer.
‘War of the Worlds’
Eighty-three years ago this week, New Jersey was the epicenter of one of the most controversial moments in broadcast history – the Orson Welles radio dramatization of ‘War of the Worlds’. 
The American Mercury Theater production convinced thousands that the U.S. was under attack by alien life-forms, an attack which first manifested itself in Grover’s Mill. While some histories of the event have perhaps overhyped the hysteria caused by the broadcast, calls to state and local police in New Jersey hit record levels during that Sunday evening dramatization October 30, 1938.
Diocese of Camden
A brief news release concerning the $27 million settlement between the Diocese of Camden and its insurers doesn’t mention the cause of the litigation being settled,the $27 million that the insurance companies agreed to pay into a survivor trust aimed at resolving over 300 bonafide claims of sexual abuse filed by a June 30 deadline. 
The diocese has over a dozen churches in Cape May County, six schools, two senior living communities, and one nonprofit organization working with individuals with disabilities. The activities of the diocese contribute in vital ways to the county community. The resolution of the diocese’s chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings should be of more than passing interest to county residents. 
With the bankruptcy filing in October 2020, the Victim’s Compensation Program halted. The settlement brings the funds available to resolve claims to $53 million. The diocese will amend its reorganization plan to reflect the insurance settlement.
Atlantic Cape Community College announced the opening of its Wind Training Center, aimed at supporting the workforce needs of the emerging wind energy sector of the state’s economy. 
The approach of winter weather means county towns are making plans for warming centers during Code Blue events.
It’s an election year, and 541 of the state’s 565 municipalities received state grants for infrastructure work. Cape May County’s 16 municipalities received funding. The total for county grants was $2.7 million.
If you want that single-use plastic straw, you are going to have to ask for it. They will only be available upon request beginning Nov. 4.
The Board of County Commissioners expressed concern over the impact of new regulations in the state’s Protection Against Climate Threats (PACT) program. This is only the beginning of the regulatory change coming as a result of the governor’s requirement that land-use regulations reflect the realities of climate change and sea level rise. The Herald reported on the regulatory reform effortin March.
In Wildwood, an award has been made on the redevelopment of the iconic Boardwalk. The Pacific Avenue Redevelopment Plan also received approval.
Middle Township reports progress on its settlement talks concerning an affordable housing plan. The Fair Share Housing Center, representing low- and moderate-income housing needs, says major issues remain to be resolved. The municipality successfully kicked off construction of the last leg of its bike path.
Two Lower Township police officers were arrested on fourth degree theft charges. They allegedly stole bicycles in Cape May.
Wildwood Crest Mayor Don Cabrera is among those who “stay grounded” through triathlon competitions
County Prosecutor Jeffrey Sutherland told Cape May that no criminal charges will be forthcoming in the investigation of affordable housing funds used for employee bonuses in 2019. The city is now left with the task of making the affordable housing fund whole.
Spout Off of the Week
Town Bank - Every election cycle brings up the high property taxes by opponents of incumbents. But never is heard an encouraging word or solution. Taxes won’t go down but controls can be set. Let’s try and freeze them. When a property owner goes on Social Security their property taxes are frozen at the rate in effect that day. Only one owned property can be frozen. This frozen rate stays in effect until the day the property is sold. Then the property taxes are reset to what the frozen rate would have been without the freeze. 
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