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July 19-25  

Nationally, the virus is making a comeback weeks ahead of when health officials feared a third wave - something that we definitely don’t want to be ahead of schedule. Efforts to open the Canadian border remain stalled.   

Officials tell us the Surfside, Florida, collapse cannot happen here. Our public safety departments remain busy, with the usual summer rise in crime and emergencies. A few long-standing projects get a nudge.  

What 3rd Wave and Why Now?  

Cape May County health officials continue to remind us that the county’s rate of transmission is the lowest of all New Jersey’s counties. According to the county’s numbers, we saw a doubling in the number of active cases this week, up from 28 to 64.   

A county release states that 59% of the population is fully vaccinated, which is the same percentage as last week’s release. The pace of vaccinations has not increased.  

The county is still urging the unvaccinated to get the shot. Mobile clinics are attempting to make the process as convenient as possible. One will be operating in Woodbine.   

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While health officials expected we might see another spike in the fall unless vaccination numbers rose, the current wave, mostly in states with low vaccination rates, is disconcerting, especially in these warm months.   

The culprit appears to be the highly transmissible delta variant. The most recent variant tracking report from the state Department of Health (NJDOH) shows the delta variant is now over 50% of all those sequenced in the last four weeks. That 50% number holds true, even for the seven southern counties as a group.  

Oh Canada   

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The date when the Canadian border might reopen is of intense interest in Cape May County. Prior to the pandemic, Canadian visitors represented about 7% of the county’s tourist economy. These visitors stay longer and spend more than typical U.S. tourists.   

U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-2nd) spoke out against the Biden administration for allowing illegal immigration from the south, while keeping the northern border closed. Right now, it is looking like Canada will open its borders to fully vaccinated Americans Aug. 9. However, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security indicated it will keep the land border with Canada closed another month, except for essential travel. A worsening of the Covid numbers could impact that date.  

Cape May County Commissioner Director Gerald Thornton said the federal delay in opening the border impedes the county’s economic recovery, noting that the delay will mean over 1 million fewer overnight stays in summer 2021.  

It Can’t Happen Here, Can it?  

Gov. Phil Murphy reacted to the building collapse in Surfside, Florida, by reminding New Jersey residents that the state has some of the strictest building codes in the nation. He also noted that New Jersey law requires multifamily dwelling inspections at least every five years.  

The law Murphy was referencing is the Hotel and Multiple Dwelling Act of New Jersey. 

What Murphy did not say is that the intent of the law was to protect tenants. Multiple dwelling buildings with at least 80% owner occupied units, a definition of most condominium buildings, are often exempted from the state inspection.   

The thought that local municipalities might require structural integrity inspections changed when Wildwood Crest, the only community to have suggested it might take such action, pulled back from inserting the municipality into what more commonly is a state function.   

Public Safety Stories  

Summer is a busy time for the county’s public safety departments and this season is no exception.  

North Wildwood fire and police personnel responded to the rescue of the rider of a stranded wave runner. Ocean City officials had to deal with a banner plane that experienced trouble and made an emergency landing on a bridge.  

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Stone Harbor police are taking action to prevent vehicle and bicycle accidents following a fatal encounter. Elsewhere, a final determination on a shooting at a Woodbine campground is that the subject’s death was from a self-inflicted wound.  

Cape May County Superior Court will have to decide what action to take now that an appeal was partially successful in the high-profile, 2018 case involving a drug-induced death.   

An Upper Township Public Works employee was suspended for methamphetamine use. Just over a year ago, the Herald reported an alarming rise in methamphetamine use in the state and county. Now, it is a common drug reported in indictments for controlled substance possession.  

Important Municipal Actions   

Several important municipal actions impacted long-standing issues this week.  

Stone Harbor awarded a contract for the construction of a new Beach Patrol building that has been the subject of debate for three years. The estimated cost is $2.8 million. The borough also introduced a rezoning ordinance that would allow owners of undersized properties in four specific areas to build second stories on their small cottages.  

Middle Township finally awarded the contract for completion of the bike path north from the Atlantic Cape campus to Dennis Township. Easements, environmental concerns and funding have all delayed the project for years.  

Cape May prepared for construction of its new fire station by authorizing a lease of temporary space in the firehouse in West Cape May.  

Wildwood delayed movement on its back bay development plans after discussions with the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The city wants to ensure that any winning bidder understands the full responsibilities involved in needed remediation of the former landfill.  

Meanwhile, the feds made it official with a seven-page legal memorandum that prohibits the harvesting of Hereford Inlet sand for beach replenishments.   

In Wildwood, the Shamrock is no more, but the memories remain.  

Spout Off of the Week  

Town Bank - To the North Cape May spouter happy about the walkway on Bay drive, I couldn’t agree more. Whoever puts up the decorations on the entrances to the beach deserves a round of applause. They put holiday appropriate decorations out during all seasons, and it always makes my family smile when we see them. This is a selfless act that takes time, money and dedication, and deserves to be recognized. Kudos for bringing it to everyone’s attention! I could live anywhere I want, but I’d rather be here.  

Read more spouts at spoutoff.capemaycountyherald.com.