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Wednesday, May 22, 2024


The Wrap: CDC’s Heat and Health Initiative, Long-Term-Care Staffing, Homelessness Laws  

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By Herald Staff

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April 22-28

CDC’s Heat and Health Initiative

The number of deaths and serious illnesses related to heat exposure has been rising in the United States. Extreme heat is the number one weather-related cause of death in the country, killing more people than hurricanes, floods and tornadoes combined. As is often the case, the elderly and the very young are the most vulnerable. The forecast for 2024 is for more potentially deadly heat waves.

On April 22, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced jointly developed tools to help Americans understand extreme heat risk and prepare for it.

The new initiative has three resources, as identified in the CDC announcement.

The HeatRisk Forecast Tool provides a seven-day heat forecast nationwide and alerts users to when the heat levels may pose health risks. The tool takes into account unique differences between heat and health in specific locations. It is meant to help local officials implement specific heat response plans.

The HeatRisk Dashboard is meant to be used by the public. The tool lets users enter a zip code and get their local heat risk and associated heat and health information. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index is integrated into the tool as well.

The third resource in this tool set is the CDC’s new clinical guidance aimed at health-care providers who will be able to better discuss the impact of heat on health with their patients, in hopes of reducing the risk of negative health impacts.

Long-Term-Care Staffing Rule

On April 22, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released minimum staff standards for long-term-care facilities. The standards are stricter than those in New Jersey’s three-year-old law setting state staffing levels. The federal rules mandate how many hours of care residents must receive at federally funded facilities. A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis says that fewer than 20% of long-term-care facilities meet the rule minimums.

The Kaiser analysis says that 1.2 million Americans live in facilities that would be covered by the rule. A look at facilities in Cape May County listed on a state website of long-term-care locations suggests that at least seven such care facilities would be impacted by the rule, including the Crest Haven facility recently privatized by the county.

Requirements will take effect in phases, with most facilities fully implemented by May 2027 and some rural facilities given more time. One of the most significant changes in the rule will be requirements for staffing of registered nurses and nurse aides. The staffing levels are based on resident population, but all facilities by 2027 must have RNs on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Staffing has been a major issue at long-term-care facilities, a situation made worse by staff losses during the pandemic. Immigrant caregivers have filled positions amounting to almost 30% of long-term-care workers, but immigration is now an uncertain answer, given its place in the current political debate.

The Health Care Association of New Jersey says compliance will be nearly impossible under current financial arrangements with Medicaid. Industry groups say some facilities may be forced to close.

Advocates of the rule and families of residents say the rule does not go far enough to address poor standards for care in many facilities.

Homelessness Laws

The small city of Grants Pass in southern Oregon has a population of less than 40,000, and it has a homelessness issue. The town has been barred from enforcing local ordinances that prohibit sleeping and camping in parks and on public property. The city went to court over the issue of homeless encampments, and that case is now before the U. S. Supreme Court. Dozens of briefs have been filed by the Department of Justice, members of Congress, state attorneys general and social advocacy groups.

The case has captured widespread attention because homelessness in the country has hit record highs. Shelter is increasingly out of reach for large groups of Americans. The annual Point in Time January count of the homeless showed a 12% increase nationwide this year. Advocates argue that the numbers represent significant undercounts of the true homeless population.

Here in Cape May County, Middle Township adopted an ordinance in 2023 banning sleeping in temporary shelters like tents. The ordinance was seen as a new tool for dealing with homeless encampments in the Rio Grande section of the township. As legal issues play out in Municipal Court, the ordinance has not resulted in wholesale actions against the encampments.

In the Oregon case, the federal Department of Justice said in its brief that the 9th Circuit was correct in ruling that laws that punish people for sleeping outside when there are not enough shelters are unconstitutional. But the brief also said that the court erred by not requiring that local authorities look into the circumstances of an individual to whom the ordinance is being applied. The Justice Department seemed to want to have it both ways while also adding complexity to the situation.

Oral arguments before the Supreme Court were held April 22. News reports say that the court’s questioning of attorneys suggested a majority of the justices were sympathetic to the city. One lawyer for Grants Pass said, “The stakes could not be higher for every city in the country.”

Those who worry about a broad ruling in favor of the city argue that it will allow municipalities to push the homeless from one location to another and undermine the commitment to housing and services.


Nicholas Alexander-Gutierrez of New York City was arrested for attempted burglary in North Wildwood. Identified through witness description and surveillance, he faces charges. Residents are urged to report suspicious activity.

Avalon’s Borough Council approved a $35.8 million budget for 2024, maintaining the tax rate. It covers various expenses, including operations, the library, utilities, and beach maintenance.

Keith R. Aubrey, 42, was arrested again for child pornography warrants after being spotted riding his bike. Police found him hiding under a boardwalk tent in Wildwood. He faces charges and was lodged at the Cape May County Correctional Center after his arrest.

The Dennis Township Board of Education approved an $18 million budget with a $3.2 million shortfall. They’re relying on pending state legislation like A-4161 to address funding gaps. The board is urging public support for legislative action and is exploring all options to minimize cuts.

Senators Zwicker and Ruiz’s “Freedom to Read Act” establishes library material standards and shields librarians from harassment. It’s backed by school librarian and library associations but faces criticism from conservative groups. The bill, which tackles issues like LGBTQ representation and parental rights, is awaiting further action in education committees.

A state appellate court upheld the denial of Cape Jetty LLC’s request to replace their Cape May City motel with a larger resort hotel. The court sent one aspect of the appeal back to the lower court for further review regarding the denial of an extension request.

Cape May County Prosecutor Jeffrey Sutherland announced the arrest of stabbing suspect Imani S. Goodman, 26, in Mississippi. Goodman is charged in connection with a stabbing incident in Villas on April 3. Gabrielle Labaco, Goodman’s partner, also faces charges.

North Wildwood’s eroded beaches will see relief soon with an emergency dredging project announced by Mayor Patrick Rosenello and Gov. Phil Murphy. It’s a short-term measure until the Five Mile Dune Project is complete, with specifics like funding yet to be disclosed.

Sea Isle City’s beach replenishment project by the Army Corps of Engineers is set to finish by mid-June. Mayor Desiderio said that work will progress from the south end to downtown areas, ensuring beach access for the public. The project is part of a long-term contract, mostly federally funded.

Middle Township is seeking bids for solid waste and recyclables collection and disposal, with bids expected to open in mid-July. Their current vendor is Gold Medal Environmental, but the contract is ending, prompting the search for new vendors.

Sea Isle City announced that the new dog park in the city’s north end will open for Memorial Day. It features separate areas for small and large dogs and shade pavilions for both dogs and their owners. The project’s bid totaled just under $1 million.

Former Wildwood Mayor Pete Byron is facing new charges of official misconduct for unlawfully obtaining employment and failing to pay state income tax. These charges add to previous indictments related to health benefits fraud and tax evasion. If convicted, Byron could face significant penalties.

West Cape May’s Board of Commissioners passed an ordinance limiting cannabis retail licenses to just one in the borough. This means Shore House Canna on Sunset Boulevard will be the exclusive cannabis retailer in town.

Cape May County native Joe Scrocca Jr., 63, started stand-up comedy in December, drawing from his life experiences. Despite no prior experience, he’s performed at venues like Rodney’s and the Copacabana, adjusting his act based on audience reactions. He aims to inspire others to embrace new opportunities at any age.

Stone Harbor Borough Council will replace its 2024 budget and amendment on May 7 to avoid readvertising. The previous $22.2 million budget, raising local taxes by 1 cent, allocated $13 million to the six-year capital budget, mostly in 2024 and 2025.

In 2009, the F/V Lady Mary sank off Cape May Harbor, leading to the loss of six crew members. Investigations pointed to damage from hitting the ocean floor, but the exact cause remains debated.

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