COVID-19 update: Sussex County residents aren't moving much -- except to go to the park

Sussex County. Sussex County residents aren't moving much, except for trips to the park, according to Google. Two more die in Sussex County as total positive cases reaches 213. Flags to be flown at half-staff indefinitely. Crisis counselors are now available to speak to county residents who may be experiencing emotional or mental difficulties related to COVID-19. Trails close in Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area. During a month of religious holidays, hunker down, the health commissioner says. It's time to wear a face mask, says the CDC. Nursing homes in New Jersey are hit hard. Tax, budget days are moved. Morgues in New Jersey are reaching capacity. The state gets some ventilators. The state cracks down on COVID-19 fraud. Brew pubs are now allowed to deliver.

03 Apr 2020 | 11:51

Sussex County isn't moving much, according to Google

People in Sussex County are complying with the stay-at-home order, according to data in Google's new COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports (google.com/covid19/mobility). But they really love going to the park.

Google has launched a new website that shows how much social distancing is taking place in locations around the world.

It shows trends in six categories: retail and recreation; grocery and pharmacy; parks; transit stations; workplaces; and residential.

The baseline is the median value, for the corresponding day of the week, during the period Jan. 3-Feb. 6. The reports show trends over several weeks with the most recent data representing from two to three days before.

On March 29 in Sussex County, there was 39 percent less work-related travel than during the baseline period, and 57 percent less retail and recreation travel. Earlier in the month Sussex County saw a 40 percent spike in grocery and pharmacy travel before falling below baseline on March 29. (See chart above.)

But Sussex County residents really love going to the park. Park-related travel saw a 80 to 90 percent increase.

Two more deaths in Sussex County

On April 3, Freeholder Director Sylvia Petillo announce two additional COVID-19- related-deaths in Sussex County, the first in a 92-year-old male from Sparta Township, and the second in an 80-year-old male from Newton.

The Sussex County Division of Health has been working with people who came into contact with these patients. Those identified as close contacts are in their homes under self-quarantine and being monitored by health division staff.

The health division was notified of 28 additional cases of COVID-19 among county residents. The total number of cases in Sussex County is at 213, as follows: Andover Borough (1), Andover Township (15), Branchville Borough (3), Byram Township (10), Frankford Township (8), Franklin Borough (7), Fredon Township (4), Green Township (3), Hamburg Borough (3), Hampton Township (6), Hardyston Township (11), Hopatcong Borough (23), Lafayette Township (1), Montague Township (1), Newton Town (27), Ogdensburg Borough (3), Sandyston Township (2), Sparta Township (35), Stanhope Borough (6), Stillwater Township (0), Sussex Borough (4), Vernon Township (24), Walpack Township (0), and Wantage Township (16).

There have been eight deaths from COVID-19 in Sussex County.

Flags to be flown at half-staff indefinitely

Governor Phil Murphy today ordered that the U.S. and New Jersey flags be flown at half-staff at all state buildings and facilities indefinitely starting April 3 in recognition and mourning of all those who have lost their lives and been affected by COVID-19.

“COVID-19 has taken far too many relatives, friends, and loved ones in New Jersey,” said Murphy. “This virus has affected every corner of our state, and as we continue to work to break the back of this pandemic, we recognize those who have been lost to this terrible illness and all those affected by it. Many families cannot hold funerals for their loved ones at this time. By doing this, we remind them that their losses are not forgotten.”

Crisis counselors are available

Certified disaster response crisis counselors are now available to speak to Sussex County residents who may be experiencing emotional or mental difficulties related to COVID-19.

A counselor may be reached through the Sussex County Division of Health COVID-19 Hotline at 973-579-9488.

The counselors are trained to provide disaster mental health services, including psychological first aid and crisis counseling. They are certified through the New Jersey Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services Disaster and Terrorism Branch, along with the Mental Health Association of New Jersey and the Certification Board of New Jersey.

Health division staff and Sussex County Medical Reserve Corps volunteers are also available to answer other questions related to COVID-19. The hotline’s hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.Residents are also encouraged to visit the Sussex County website at sussex.nj.us/covid19.

The New Jersey Poison Control Center and 2-1-1 have also partnered with the state to provide information on COVID-19. Residents may call 2-1-1 or 1-800-962-1253 or text NJCOVID to 898-211.

Trails close in Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area

As of April 2, all trails on the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC) campus in Dingmas Ferry will be closed and all winter closures have been extended until May 22.

In New Jersey, the extended closures include Mountain Road, Blue Mountain Lakes Road/Crater Lake Area, Watergate, Namanock, Rivers Bend Group Campground, and the dirt section of Old Mine Road.

In Pennsylvania, the extended closures include Dingmans Access, Dingmans Falls Visitor Center and Parking Area, Hialeah Picnic Area, and Valley View Group Campground.

Without vehicles on the roads, and because they are wider than park trails, areas like Mountain Road, Blue Mountain Lakes Road, the dirt section of Old Mine Road, and the Dingmans Falls access road provide additional locations where visitors can safely maintain social distancing if they chose to visit the park at this time.

Most of park’s outdoor spaces, including more than 150 miles of trails, remain accessible to the public. Public restrooms, volunteer and partner-operated buildings and the visitor information desk at Bushkill Meeting Center were closed on March 17 and the Kittatinny Point area in New Jersey was closed on March 28.

Updates on Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area can be found at nps.gov/dewa and Facebook.com/DelWaterGapNPS.

During month of religious holidays, hunker down

New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli urged religious leaders in the state to observe social distancing rules during a month of important religious holidays, including Passover, Easter, Vaisahki, and Ramadan.

"We understand that while this may be disappointing to many who look forward to spending time visiting with relatives and friends, it is imperative to limit human interaction in an effort to help slow the spread of the virus which causes COVID-19," said Persichilli in a letter to religious leaders.

Congregations and should not be gathering for religious services or for meals until the ban is lifted, she said.

"Remain at home with only those who live together in the household and celebrate together," she said. "Please notify your congregations of any live streamed or televised services that may be available and provide them with suggestions on how they can create meaningful celebrations at home without gathering with others."

The Vernon United Methodist Church will be holding its Tuesday Bible Study group via ZOOM. For more information visit its website or Facebook page.

It's time to wear a face mask, the CDC says

The Centers for Disease Control on Friday recommended that all Americans wear a face mask every time they leave the house to shop, pick up prescriptions, or do other unavoidable errands.

A significant portion of people with coronavirus lack symptoms, and even those who eventually develop symptoms can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms, the CDC says: "This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity — for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing — even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms. In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission."

The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, the CDC says.

Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure, CDC says.

Nursing homes hit hard

(AP) Positive coronavirus cases have reached about a quarter of all of New Jersey's nursing homes, accounting for more than a fifth of the 355 total fatalities from the virus, officials said.

Gov. Phil Murphy and Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said during a daily briefing that the number of cases in the state climbed to more than 22,000, up about 3,000 in the last day.

The virus' expansion to 93 of the state's 375 nursing homes is concerning, Murphy and Persichilli have said, but added that it's expected.

Eight residents of a nursing home in northern New Jersey have died from COVID-19. Wanaque Mayor Michael Mahler said in a letter on the town's website that the community nurse notified him that the deaths occurred at Lakeland nursing home and that other residents and staff members also were infected.

For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems,the novel coronavirus can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

Tax, budget days moved

(AP) New Jersey's income tax deadline will move from April 15 to July 15 and the state budget deadline will move from June 30 to Sept. 30 in response to the coronavirus outbreak, Murphy and legislative leaders announced Wednesday.

"The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused hardships, financial strain and disruptions for many New Jerseyans and New Jersey businesses," the leaders said.

Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin will move any necessary legislation and supplemental appropriations to get the state through the rest of the fiscal year, the leaders said. All three men are Democrats.

The change in the income tax filing deadline mirrors what the federal government announced last month.

The details of the budget are unclear. Murphy had proposed a $40.9 billion spending plan that called for increased spending for schools, public pensions and New Jersey Transit, but the economic impact the virus will have on state finances looks dire given a sharp rise in unemployment claims.

The state will need as much cash as possible from the federal government, Murphy said.

Morgues reaching capacity

(AP) The climbing death toll is straining morgues in New Jersey, the governor said, and more space will be needed soon. He said he's begun discussions about getting more morgue space with federal officials, including the Defense Department.

The state is working to get refrigerator trucks to transport deceased people, according to Persichilli and the state police superintendent.

It's unclear when the new storage will be needed, Murphy said, but it's coming soon.

State gets some ventilators

(AP) The state got 350 new ventilators from the federal government, bringing the statewide total of new equipment to 650, according to the governor.

The state needs 2,300 ventilators from federal officials, Murphy said.

Persichilli said with number of ventilators the state is getting, "we believe we're going to be OK."

All hospitals in the state must report the number of ventilators, how many are in use and what type they are, she said. The ventilators will also be moving around state based on need, according to the commissioner.

Crackdown on COVID-19 fraud

New Jersey's U.S. attorney and the state attorney general have teamed up to crack down on fraud stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal on Monday announced a joint state-federal task force to go after people who illegally hoard supplies, gouge prices and conduct other scams.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has said the state would aggressively pursue any violators.

The state has seen more than 16,000 positive coronavirus cases, with nearly 200 deaths.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

Law enforcement officials caution residents to be wary of warning signs for scams, including "investment opportunities" tied to COVD-19, as well as offers to sell fake cures, vaccines, and other unproven advice.

Brew pubs may deliver

(AP) New Jersey brew pubs will now be able to deliver, said Gov. Murphy. The state's Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control had previously barred such delivery.

He also said that auto retailers would be permitted to conduct online sales, with customers allowed to pick up vehicles at dealers or for dealers to deliver

Gun retailers, which were shuttered, will now be able to reopen but by appointment only, Murphy said. He said the decision wasn't his but came from guidance from the White House.

A liquor store that was inundated with residents of Pennsylvania, where the state has closed the wine and hard-alcohol shops it runs, has reopened, the store's manager told NJ.com.

Johnny Canal said he decided to close the Pennsauken store last week after it was swamped by residents from Pennsylvania over concerns that customers were not adhering to social-distancing precautions.

The store reopened after it updated a sign outside saying that "Social Distancing Saves Lives," and employees directed customers where to stand in line.

State police adjust number of cases

(AP) In a story March 29, 2020, about coronavirus developments in New Jersey, The Associated Press erroneously reported that more than 700 police officers had tested positive for the virus. New Jersey State Police said it had overstated that number, revising the total to more than than 160 positive cases.