Sparta police report drop in township’s Covid cases

Sparta. Councilman sees too many locals not wearing masks; deputy mayor says “messaging” works better than legislation.

22 Oct 2020 | 02:28

After a COVID-19 spike caused Sparta Township school openings to be delayed, police chief Neil Spidaletto reported that cases in the township have dropped.

“We take this very seriously,” he told the township council on Oct. 13. “We have to keep perspective based on the size of our town and our population. We have almost 20,000 residents in town, and I’m only seeing one or two positive cases every other day.”

Spidaletto said he attributes the drop to the constant flow of information the department has put out to the public, and the reinforcement of safe practices.

There is still room for improvement, according to observations by Councilman Dan Chiariello. He said he was cycling recently at several sporting events and found very few people wearing masks. At some flag football events he attended, he saw that coaches and referees were masked but very few spectators were wearing masks.

He also mentioned a baseball event where very few people were wearing masks.

“I found it a little bit alarming,” Chiariello said. “This is a matter of health and safety, and it’s also a matter of getting our kids back into school.”

The Sparta’s acting superintendent of schools, Patrick McQueeney, postponed the start of elementary school by a week to Oct. 5 because of the recent spike. Middle school and high school students in Sparta are expected to return to school on Nov. 2.

“Practicing better safety on our fields will help us get back to school,” McQueeney said.

Deputy Mayor Christine Quinn said the township needs to be mindful of what it can and cannot control. Correcting the problem through messaging, not legislation, is more effective, she said.

“I feel like I don’t want to overmanage this thing to the point where people are fearful,” she said. “We continued to follow the law and I feel like these kids’ sports programs are being zeroed in on. There are many adults sports organizations. I am okay with putting signs up, but I’m not okay with over-legislating. Where does it stop?”

“I feel like I don’t want to overmanage this thing to the point where people are fearful. I am okay with putting signs up, but I’m not OK with over legislating. Where does it stop?” —Deputy Mayor Christine Quinn