Oct. 26-Nov. 1:
Pandemic's Center Stage
The story this week was the pandemic. A surge in new cases hit the county. There were 129 confirmed COVID-19 infections among county residents and another 13 positive tests among non-residents.
Before this week, Cape May County demonstrated an ability to take a short, two-day spike in cases and soften its impact with low counts on several following days.
After what looked like the occasional spike, cases grew, with 35 total cases Oct. 30.
When the county hit high case counts in July, most were associated with large groups of young people ignoring health protocols. This week, the spokesperson for the county Health Department stated that the age distribution of the infected individuals was “all over the place,” meaning more infections among those in age groups that have an increased vulnerability to severe complications.
The week also saw the first hints of a new outbreak in long-term care environments, with eight confirmed cases, marking the first time since late spring that a grouping of new cases appeared in these vulnerable populations.
No vaccine is approved, but several are in phase 3 trials, and the distribution of one, when approved, is likely to be a several-month process. The best path forward involves embracing the public health protocols that worked to tamp down the transmission rate in previous months.
If the surge is not brought under control, a potentially devastating consequence may not only be a health emergency but also another hit to an already badly damaged economy.
The state took several steps in response to the October surge. Gov. Phil Murphy extended the health emergency another 30 days, while the travel advisory grew to 41 states and U.S. jurisdictions. The governor also signed legislation that set new standards for long-term care facilities.
This year, the election is an ongoing process that began the first week of October. The number of ballots received by Cape May County election officials totals more than 90% of all votes cast for president in 2016.
Voters in Cape May County have the unusual experience of participating in a congressional contest that is among the most closely watched in the nation, Van Drew versus Kennedy. A Stockton University poll puts the race at a dead heat.
In West Wildwood, an incumbent running for reelection, along with the wife of the sitting mayor, who is also up for reelection, challenged 80 voter registrations, including that of an opposing candidate. So far, 94% of the challenged registrations reviewed resulted in the challenge being dismissed, making the process another head-scratching moment in the borough’s politics.
In Upper Township, a dispute emerged over the reported resignation of a member of the governing body. Hobart "Hobie" Young appeared to resign Oct. 19, an action prompted by outrage over posts he made on his Facebook page. Young claims he did not resign. The municipality’s attorney said he did.
County, Municipal Actions
As the pandemic raged in April and May, one fear was that high unemployment and closed non-essential businesses would lead to a drop in property tax revenues. The feared decline in property tax revenues has not materialized.
With the economy damaged and the virus showing no signs of departing, the new municipal challenge may be finding ways to cobble together 2021 budgets.
In Wildwood, residents joined a virtual meeting to hear about and discuss the Pacific Avenue redevelopment project, which may include residential units.
Ocean City unveiled concept plans for a $35 million public safety building days before Cape May voters will register their opinion on two referendums concerning such a combined facility.
A grant from the New Jersey Historic Trust will aid in the preservation of the Emlen Physick Estate, in Cape May, while the recently completed Avalon Manor fishing pier project, in Middle Township, was lauded by the New Jersey Society of Municipal Engineers.
In West Wildwood, a former mayor filed suit, claiming that the borough administration conspired to help the police chief in her successful suit against the municipality. The new litigation concerns a previous $1.7 million settlement which the borough must pay to Jacquelyn Ferentz and her attorney.
Wildwood Crest considered options for the former library building.
Sea Isle City’s residents heard a developer’s plans for the Springfield Inn, a prominently located property that was cited for code violations.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the completion of a 100-acre marsh redevelopment project in a portion of the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge, at Reed's Beach.
Two popular property tax assistance programs were delayed by the COVID-19 impact on state revenues, but both are back and funded. The Homestead Benefit and Senior Freeze programs survived in the state’s current nine-month 2021 budget process.
The effort to review the county’s outdated comprehensive plan calls for public hearings in spring 2021.
Home visits may be out this year for Operation Fireside, but families will be expressing their support for Coast Guard recruits in other ways.
The governor signed Executive Order 192 this week, mandating health and safety standards for New Jersey workers during the pandemic. Murphy issued 90 executive orders since he established the Coronavirus Task Force in February.