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The Wrap: Covid, Evictions and Cannabis Deadline

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Get ‘The Wrap,’ our take on the news of the week, in your inbox every Tuesday. Sign up at https://bit.ly/3goVpVr. Learn more about J. Byrne Insurance.  
Aug. 2-8: 
Covid returns to center stage in the news. The health metrics are trending in the wrong direction, driving changes to mask mandates. Elected leaders are caught in a largely no-win situation. The big question now is what about the children? School is looming, infections among children are rising and the learning gap is already too wide. Court records show 60,000 pending evictions, with 200,000 more expected. A U.S. Census Bureau study shows 18% of New Jersey renters are in trouble. The Aug. 21 cannabis deadline approaches. A home-schooler fights for the right to play sports.
Covid Reclaims Center Stage
Covid numbers are not trending well. Cape May County’s numbers this week show an active case total of 330 compared to 69 in the report just two weeks prior. The report issued Aug. 6 showed 207 new resident cases since the county’s July 30 report. The county’s long-term care facilities had no active cases July 23 and had 28 reported Aug. 6. The good news is there were no new deaths. Hospitalizations stand at 11. The state imposed a vaccine mandate on certain facilities. 
The pace of county vaccinations is still moving slowly, but the cumulative results are helping. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said 60% of county residents are fully vaccinated and 68% of those 12 and older. Among the municipalities, the state dashboard shows the highest rates of fully vaccinated individuals are on Seven Mile Island and in Sea Isle City. The municipalities with the lowest rates are Woodbine, Dennis Township and West Wildwood. 
The delta variant is the culprit in the pandemic’s new surge. The CDC said the variant is complicit in over 90% of new cases nationally. New Jersey’s latest report puts the number at 84%. Hard to believe delta was first seen in the U.S. in March.  
The variant is more infectious and more contagious, but the jury is still out on it being more virulent. Largely because of the impact of this variant on Cape May County’s infection rate, Covid Act Now labeled the county high risk.
What about the children?
The surge in new cases has caused a shift in CDC guidance concerning the imminent reopening of schools. New Jersey reacted with a mask mandate. Already, Lower Cape May Regional School District’s website announced a mandatory mask policy, beginning Aug. 9. Even the Cape May County Library system returned to a mask requirement. 
The consensus of most official organizations, like the CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and U.S. Department of Education, is that the risks of educational and mental health setbacks related to remote education is greater than the risks of severe complications from Covid among school children, but this comes as the hospitalization of young patients and children is growing in states that are experiencing a new surge of cases. 
Dr. Paul Offit, an expert from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a property owner in Avalon, said if more children are getting serious consequences from an infection, that’s because more children total are getting sick.  
“It is clearly increased contagiousness, not increased virulence,” he said.  
Three separate state studies show that rates of school transmission remain low when schools take multiple Covid precautions. The word from Yale Medicine is that parents should expect interruptions of in-person instruction if delta cases continue to accelerate in their area.  
The AAP notes that children have always represented about 14% of all Covid cases while they, as of the end of July, represent about 19%. All sources advise that children with special medical needs and underlying conditions are the ones at greatest risk. All agree that children are safest in communities with high vaccination rates. 
National Center for Health Statistics said that, as of July 28, 3.5 million children have been confirmed with Covid since the beginning of the pandemic. Of those, there have been 541 deaths – 175 in preschool age children and 366 in those of school age.
A Potential Tsunami of Evictions 
New Jersey courts said that 60,000 evictions are pending, with 200,000 more expected. Trials in landlord-tenant cases are expected to resume Sept. 1. The Census Bureau said that up to 18% of New Jersey renters are behind in their rent. County level data is not easily attainable. 
This week, the CDC imposed another 60-day federal moratorium in areas with a high level of community transmission. A visit to the CDC Integrated County View shows that Cape May County falls within the boundaries of the CDC extension.  
New Jersey also saw Gov. Phil Murphy issue Executive Order 249 and sign new legislation that, together, extend the state moratorium based on the relationship between a renter’s household income and the median income of the county in which the property is located. The state also added more funds to rental assistance programs, urging renters and landlords to apply.
Weed Deadline Looms 
The Aug. 21 deadline related to the legalization of cannabis is a matter of days away. Municipalities, unable to wait any longer for a glimpse at state regulations, adopted ordinances stating what they will and will not allow within their boundaries. Middle Township was the latest county municipality to do so this week, when it banned all classes of establishments associated with the recreational cannabis industry.  
The deadline is also important for the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission, which is to have its first draft plan completed for how the new cannabis industry will be regulated. The meetings of the commission are public, with the opportunity for virtual participation and public comment. Video of previous meetings are also available. 
Acting Attorney General Andrew Bruck has a website that poses and answers questions on the decriminalization of marijuana use and cannabis legislation. It comes complete with a reference card to guide police in enforcement.
Home-schooler Fights for Right to Play Sports 
The family of a local home-schooled student is asking Middle Township School District to change its policy regarding participation in sports and extracurricular activities. Currently, home-schoolers are barred from participation.
Spout Off of the Week 
Cape May County – It’s frightening to see COVID-19 numbers climbing just in a couple days. I really wish the vaccinated/unvaccinated would wear a mask when you are outdoors amongst other people. My place of employment is even considering a mask requirement for all customers again and capacity limits starting Monday. It looks like we are trending in the wrong direction all over again. All of these festivals/concerts on the barrier islands most definitely need to be cancelled. Summer is over. I feel the most sorry for the unemployed, it is the worst time to look for a job right now. 
Read more spouts at spoutoff.capemaycountyherald.com. 

Spout Off

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Cape May – The average person makes $47,000 a year in the Cape May area. The new Cape May police chief contract is $175,000 a year. You be the judge if this is money well spent, or is this too much for one…

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