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Oct. 12-18:

Pandemic Remains the Issue

Cape May County hasn't experienced the coronavirus in all of its potential virulence, but county life is being altered by the pandemic, with its lasting impact still unclear.  

People who normally would have left by this time of year are still here in large numbers. The real estate market remains hot, with prices in high-end communities rising and showing no signs of abating. Shopping areas are seeing heavy traffic. Parking spots remain elusive in popular areas.

A walk on Cape May’s Washington Street Mall, a visit to the lighthouse, in Cape May Point, and a stroll down the 96th Street business district, in Stone Harbor, demonstrate how many “extra” people reside in the county.

The pandemic’s numbers tell the tale. The state, this past week, averaged over 900 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 per day, something that has not happened since the peak of infections, in the spring. Hospitalizations remain over 700. Major health metrics continue to rise above the desired thresholds.

Nationally, the number of hot spots is growing, with hospital intensive care unit availability shrinking in many states across the Midwest and West. New Jersey's travel advisory lists 36 states and two jurisdictions from which travelers should quarantine when entering New Jersey. The state is on the travel advisory list of other states. Across Egg Harbor Bay, Shore Memorial Medical Center restricted visitors due to the rise in COVID-19 cases. 

Cape May County moves at a steady and seemingly controlled pace; 47 new cases were reported this past week. The county has fewer than 100 active cases out of 1,474 confirmed infections since March. For several weeks, that has been the county’s story - moderate, controlled growth. One-day jumps to double-digit new cases quickly ameliorate again, the spike being more an anomaly than a trend.

The pandemic’s economic harm is an ever-present issue, and state, county, and municipal governments continue to pass measures that seek to provide help in various forms.

The state announced an additional $100 million for economic recovery, Gov. Phil Murphy extended the moratorium on utility disconnects until March 15, the county was allocated $1.3 million in pandemic relief funds, and the state is making $11.2 million available to commercial and recreational fishing businesses.

Good news for county businesses may come soon, as Murphy said Oct. 15 that he expects to broaden indoor dining capacity soon. This comes as the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration issued its winter forecast, an annual event that signals the window for outdoor dining is narrowing.

Election Looms

The 2020 election is over two weeks away. It is difficult to speak of it as a future event given that over a quarter of the national electorate cast their ballots. State officials say that over 1 million ballots were received by New Jersey election boards.   

Locally, public debates among candidates for county and other officeswere held this week, even as a sizable number of ballots are already in the hands of election officials.

In Cape May County, as of Oct. 7, almost 9,000 ballots were cast, representing 18% of the total county vote, in 2016. The percentage is likely higher and will continue to rise as Election Day approaches.  

Races to watch include West Wildwood, where one candidate for reelection challenged the voter registrations of another candidate and 79 other individuals. Two referendums in Cape May, regarding bonding for new police and fire facilities, present voters with an unusual level of choice.

Cape May County freeholders urged the public to vote no on the public question concerning the legalization of recreational marijuana. A Stockton University poll predicts disappointment for the freeholders, as it shows strong support for the marijuana measure.

U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew’s (R-1st) first defense of his House seat has drawn national attention.

County, Municipal Initiatives Advance

The county voted to move ahead with $7.5 million for the rehabilitation of the Middle Thorofare Bridge, a key project in the recently announced bridge plan.

In Middle Township, officials seek  improvements to Exit 9, on the Garden State Parkway.

Sea Isle City told residents that the city inspectors will actively seek to bring the Springfield Inn up to code requirements.

A 30-year civil case involving a 100-acre patch of undeveloped land, in Cape May, may see a new trial begin soon, but environmental activists are seeking state involvement in settlement discussions.

Upper Township said it will inspect properties in certain flood plain areas to ensure structures are adhering to code regarding living space.

A developer’s proposal for a new “Inn at Strathmere” has drawn opposition from some residents. The application of variance currently sits with the Upper Township Planning Board.

Wildwood Crest Borough Commissioners are considering joining other shore municipalities with a ban on single-use plastics. Officials are moving ahead with changes to regulations regarding open fire pits.

Avalon and Stone Harbor are making plans for the implementation of 5G networks.

And…

The Coast Guard graduation was impacted by the pandemic, but Cape May residents came out on rainy streets to cheer the graduates as they left the Coast Guard base.

The state is moving forward with changes to regulations governing virtual public meetings. Seven months after the pandemic forced government public meetings onto virtual platforms, changes to the rules will provide a set of consistent procedures concerning public participation.

The state launched its health care marketplace in time for the start of the Affordable Care Act open enrollment period, beginning Nov. 1.

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