Cape May County Covid metrics trend down
Cape May County’s weekly Covid report showed a decline in most of the metrics used to gage the virus’ spread. Total new cases this week were 257, the first drop below 300 per week in five weeks. Active Covid cases among county residents declined below 500 for the first time in a month, but just barely at 491.
County health officials report a rate of transmission that has finally dipped below the 1.0 threshold level and stands at .96. For the past four weeks, the county averaged 45 cases per day, so this week’s average of 36 per day is an improvement. The county is still in the throes of a significant spread of the delta variant. 36 new cases per day is better than 45, but it is still a high number. Covid Act Now lists the county as very high risk.
Hospitalizations remained in the same range for several weeks. Cape Regional Medical Center reports 22 Covid patients, five of whom require intensive care. Eleven of those patients were vaccinated.
The one area where the metrics are not trending down is Covid fatalities. This week, four more county residents succumbed to the disease and a fifth death is being investigated as Covid-related. From Memorial Day to the beginning of August, the county lost four individuals to Covid. In the five weeks since Aug. 6, there have been 14 Covid fatalities.
The additions to the number of fully vaccinated county residents continue to slow. This week, 524 individuals were added to the fully vaccinated statistic, the lowest one-week addition in two months. The county has an impressive overall rate of vaccination, but the vaccination rates are unevenly distributed across the municipalities, with significant pockets of unvaccinated residents.
Schools are open
The opening of schools for full-time, in-person instruction marks a significant milestone on the road back from the ravages of Covid. It is too early to tell how it will go. The state dashboard shows no new school outbreaks.
Gov. Phil Murphy announced a $267 million fund to support school testing for students and staff. The program will be open to public and private schools. The goal is to implement comprehensive testing programs, along with the preventive strategies already in place to detect new cases early and prevent outbreaks.
Rental Assistance Programs
New Jersey Aug. 31 began the phased withdrawal from its eviction moratorium program that has been in place since March 2020. Eviction protections are increasingly tied to household income levels and even those are scheduled to phase out by the end of the year. More relief funds were poured into rental assistance and utility payment programs. The state announced the distribution of $232 million in rental relief funds to 26,000 households.
Payroll Tax Hikes Loom
The high unemployment in 2020 and parts of 2021 depleted the state unemployment insurance (UI) fund. Borrowing from the federal government is a short-term solution. What is set to happen is an over $900 million hike in payroll taxes spread over three years, beginning this fall. Several lawmakers urged Murphy to avoid the tax hike by using Covid relief funds to support the shortfall in the UI fund. So far, the governor has not reacted positively to the suggestion.
Mosquito Protection Reminder
Health officials detected the presence of West Nile virus in several populations of mosquitos in sections of the county. The health department issued a reminder about mosquito protection methods. While West Nile virus infections are generally mild, health officials say the roughly one in 150 infections can bring more serious illness. Just what we needed, something else to protect against.
Cape May City Council discussed the merits of potentially ending the use of public rights of way and parking lots for outdoor dining in October. After hearing from some business owners, the city decided to leave the current permissions in place until they are set to expire at the end of the year.
Stone Harbor Borough Council discussed options for trash collection that might involve ending the municipality’s unique “concierge” service, where borough employees bring trash cans from the back of the homes, empty them and return them. The council decided not to move to any system that would have residents or renters placing the cans at the curb for pickup.
A lightning strike fried Cape May’s emergency dispatch equipment, forcing an emergency switch to using space and equipment at the county dispatch center in Lower Township. Now, Cape May’s governing body approved moving its dispatch responsibilities to the county’s multi-jurisdictional center.
Cape May also settled litigation begun by a veteran lifeguard, who filed a suit against the city claiming he was improperly passed over for promotion.
Middle Township moved its governing body meeting to the Performing Arts Center to accommodate more residents at its Police Appreciation Day. Police retirements were honored, resulting promotions were authorized and new officers were sworn in. Police Chief Christopher Leusner said that few police departments enjoy the high level of community support enjoyed by his department.
Meanwhile, Ocean City Police Chief Jay Prettyman is proposing to restructure the Ocean City department to better address increased staffing needs in summer.
After canceling its annual reunion event in 2020 due to Covid, Whitesboro brought back the tradition this year. The reunion has been a part of the historically Black community for over 30 years and began to maintain connections with those who moved away.
The U.S. Coast Guard is seeking input from mariners on conditions and potential navigational hazards in the New Jersey Intracoastal Waterway.
Spout Off of the Week
Wildwood Crest - Here's an idea, quit all the silly complaining. Houses get built, people park in the street, kids make noise. I like the public works workers, they do a fine job. The life guards and cops keep folks safe and the fire fighters and rescue workers are top notch. Almost 70 years, my whole life living on the island and working as a carpenter, retired now. I feel lucky to live in a safe clean town.
Read more spouts at spoutoff.capemaycountyherald.com.