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The Wrap: Covid, Summer, Coastal Concerns and Public Safety

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Get ‘The Wrap,’ our take on the news of the week, in your inbox every Monday. Sign up at https://bit.ly/HeraldWrap. Learn more about J. Byrne Insurance.  
May 31-June 6:
Health Emergency is Over – Sort of
Gov. Phil Murphy June 4 signed an order lifting the health emergency in New Jersey. In doing so, Murphy did not give up allthe extraordinary powers the health emergency provided. 
Before acting on the health emergency, Murphy signed a fast-track bill protecting several of the state’s emergency acts and continuing the governor’s ability to manage aspects of the state recovery with powers he would not normally have. 
Among the provisions maintained by the new law were masking rules, moratoriums on eviction and utility shutoffs, expanded premises for outdoor dining at restaurants, shielding of federal stimulus payments from wage garnishment, and others. 
The sudden shift by the governor caught many municipalities off guard. Towns, like Cape May, established ordinances related to outdoor dining tiedto the health emergency. Some ordinances are being altered to reflect the new reality.
Covid Numbers Down, but so are Vaccination Rates
The Cape May County Health Department’s most recent reportshows 40 active Covid cases and a weekly average of three new cases per day. The 0.65 rate of transmission is well below the desired threshold of 1.0. 
The county reports 55% of its residents are fully vaccinated, noting this percentage is higher than the state average,which is 49%. While both numbers are products of an impressive effort, they are alsoshy of the goal of 70% of the adult population fully vaccinated by the end of June. 
The county is just over 5,000 fully vaccinated individuals below that goal. The vaccination rate that began dropping in mid-April continuedslowing.  
According to the state dashboard, the county last week averaged 179 new fully vaccinated individuals per day, down from an over 500 a day average in early April. The numbers of individuals getting vaccinated no longer justify the existence of all the megasites. The two closest to the county, in Rowan and Atlantic City, will close in June. 
Help Wanted 
As the tourism season begins, the problem is the lack of employees. A combination of factors, including the extension of a federal booster to regular unemployment benefits, the J-1 Summer Work Travel Program’s slow restart, and capacity limits on child care facilities that were only recently lifted reduced the labor pool as the county expects a banner year for tourists. 
Municipalities are feeling the pain, too, as they are failing to find a normal complement of summer workers needed for the population surge.
Coastal Protection Plan Takes Shape
Local officials werebriefed on the upcoming release of the Army Corps of Engineers’ feasibility study on back bay coastal risk management. The study will propose a combination of strategies,includingan embrace of nature-based protections to complement structural barriers. 
The draft of the full study is expected tobe publicly available in July, followed by several public hearings. The schedule calls for an Army Corps of Engineers report to Congress by April 2023. 
Public Safety’s Busy Recently
Shortly after noon June 1, Wildwood police responded to a report of gunfire. It was another dispute in which firearms were resorted to for resolution. One individual was arrested.
An early morning call to the State Police came from a shocked resident whose home had just had a motor vehicle crash into it. There were no injuries, and the crash is still under investigation.
Lower Township police responded to a call about a drug overdose. Despite lifesaving efforts, a 49-year-old woman died, and a29-year-oldman was charged with first-degree liability for a drug-induced death. Another suspect isbeing sought. 
And…
The Cape May County Zoo announced the birth of cotton-toppedtamarin twins. The cotton-topped tamarin is a small, new world primate that is considered “critically endangered.”
The number of red knots stopping in the county for food continues to decline sharply. One reason given is over harvesting of female horseshoe crabs.
The Lower Township School Board heard from parents and grandparents upset over the continued school mask mandate. Many also voiced opposition to curriculum changes that seek to highlight and promote diversity.
Spout of the Week…
Villas – I get a kick out of hearing people say, “it’s a scientific fact. How many times have you heard or seen the phrase, “Scientists now believe”. What?? Do you mean they were wrong before?? You mean I was hoodwinked into believing something was a fact, when it was not. Facts change when new information becomes available. Keep that in mind.

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