In 2016, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stopped granting exemptions that had, until that time, allowed sand to be mined in Hereford Inlet for the stabilization of beaches in Stone Harbor and North Wildwood. That action set off a series of political and legal maneuvers that resulted in a reversal of the policy under the Trump administration, in 2019. More litigation ensued, as environmental groups objected to the change in the 2016 prohibition.
This past week, the Biden Administration reversed the policy yet again reestablishing the ban on taking sand from the Coastal Barrier Resources System, which includes Hereford Inlet. This move could endanger the 2022 federal beach replenishments in communities that depend on sand from the inlet.
A 'Pandemic of the Unvaccinated'
New Cape May County cases average less than 3 per day
The county’s Covid numbers remain positive, even as parts of the nation are seeing new spikes. 59% of the county’s population is fully vaccinated. Together with the warm weather, the vaccination rate is helping keep the new case count low.
This week saw 20 new confirmed cases, which is less than three per day. There has been only one Covid-related fatality since Memorial Day. The improved numbers have led officials to reopen senior centers across the county.
Hospitalizations remain low, with a total of 67 in the three-county southeast region that includes Cape May County. Health experts credit the vaccines, noting that while some vaccinated individuals will catch the virus, those fully vaccinated are unlikely to require hospitalization.
Delta wins variant race
Weeks ago, health officials predicted that the Delta variant, first seen in India, would become the dominant strain across the nation. This week, in New Jersey, the variant pulled into first place among all variants sequenced in the last four weeks.
The state’s May 8 variant surveillance report listed Delta, B.1.617.2, at 1.3% of variants sequenced. As of the most recent state Department of Health (NJDOH) report, Delta is now 40.7% and continuing to rapidly expand its reach.
The variant is listed as a variant of concern by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) because of its high transmissibility and ability to increase the possibility of serious complications in those infected. The good news is current vaccines can protect against the variant, with most of the new cases attributable to the variant occurring among the unvaccinated.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky spoke of a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” Dr. Anthony Fauci said that 99% of those who died from the virus in June were not vaccinated.
There’s an app for that
Vaccinated individuals in New Jersey will be able to use a new app from the NJDOH to access their vaccination records.
Economy Off to a Good Start in ’21
Statistics and anecdotal evidence suggest that summer 2021 is looking strong in Cape May County. As the county rebounds from an over 20% loss in tourist spending in 2020, the crowds have returned, demonstrating an unyielding attachment to summer at the shore.
Canadian officials say they may reopen the border for tourist activity as early as August as long as individuals crossing are fully vaccinated. This could offer a late season bump to the county economy. Prior to the pandemic, Canadians represented about 7% of tourist traffic here.
Help wanted signs continue to dot the landscape. The unemployment rate in the county in May stood at 8.2%, higher than the usual 5% rate at that time in pre-Covid years. Many attribute the higher rate to reluctance by some potential workers to forego the federal unemployment booster which runs until September. The May rate is significantly lower than the 12.6% unemployment in March. Many found employment. Delays in the J-1 visa program have also left many summer jobs unfilled.
There are signs that the state’s economy could be headed for turbulence, as the New Jersey Supreme Court prepares for a backlog of over 57,000 landlord/tenant cases pending trial when pandemic-induced protections end.
The county’s economy has witnessed a frenzied real estate market that is only now showing some signs of calming.
The largest municipality in the county in terms of land area, Middle Township, finds itself in a struggle with the Fair Share Housing Center over a plan to create opportunities for low to moderate housing. The municipality took an important step last week when it introduced a mandatory set-aside ordinance that would require affordable housing units in certain developments within the town center.
Weed Finds a New Home
West Cape May joined neighboring Lower Township by adopting an ordinance that allows state-regulated cannabis retail sales in two borough commercial zones.
Meanwhile, the state expunged nearly 90,000 cases related to cannabis or hashish convictions since July 1 due to the decriminalization of certain marijuana offenses in New Jersey. This move comes as some shore communities struggle with the impact of marijuana legalization on underage users of weed and alcohol.
Avalon Mayor Martin Pagliughi drew praise from many borough residents when he took stern action to restrict overnight access to beaches and the boardwalk as part of the strategy to combat rowdy groups of young people. In the same week, Pagliughi received an extension to his term as the county’s director of emergency management.
State Police used a helicopter to rescue a stranded jet skier from the marsh off Ocean City and the Coast Guard rescued three mariners after their vessel ran aground approximately 28 miles northwest of Cape May.
Middle Corners Market at Miss New Jersey Competition
Alyssa Sullivan, of Court House, was the statewide winner at this year’s Miss New Jersey competition. Another Court House woman, Augostina Mallous, was second runner-up. Winning the Miss New Jersey title means that Sullivan will represent the state in the Miss America competition in December.
Spout Off of the Week
Villas - Keep The Villas weird. Tax credits for chickens!
Read more spouts at spoutoff.capemaycountyherald.com.