Maplewood is seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases and transmission, especially among youth.
The town has lost one more resident to the coronavirus since the Board of Health’s last report, bringing its total deaths up to 27. Eight new cases were reported on August 3. According to Township Health Officer Candice Davenport, the replication rate of the virus is now increasing as well.
“This is a cause for alarm as we’re monitoring the trend that we’re moving into,” said Davenport at a TC meeting on Tuesday.
Many of the new cases are youth. While young people tend not to get sick or die at the same rate as other demographics, they are major carriers of the coronavirus.
“Please send this message to our youth,” said Deputy Mayor Dean Dafis. “Now is the time to come together as a community.” The increased positivity rates in Maplewood and across NJ show an “alarming rise” among young people, according to Dafis. “I know it’s summer…we are very exhausted…[and] we are not in a full lockdown,” he told residents. “But if we continue along this path, we will go into another lockdown. We cannot afford that [for] our businesses, our economy, our kids. So please take this seriously.”
Davenport echoed his concerns. “Youth in our community, you have to take this seriously. You cannot dismiss it,” she stated. “We are seeing this nationwide. [Youth] get their family members sick…Please wear your face mask and stay six feet away from each other.”
Deputy Mayor Dafis asked that residents ensure contact tracing can happen at restaurants by providing contact information when eating out, even when it is not requested by the establishment. “Participate when you’re asked, and please ask to participate when you’re not,” he said.
Both Davenport and South Orange Health Officer John Festa are on the task force for reopening SOMSD schools. The Re-Opening Task Force’s Health, Wellness and Safety Subcommittee provides guidance from the State and CDC on screening, cleaning and disinfecting, ventilation and PPE for school nurses and staff, a modified class/activity schedule, face coverings, visitor policies, school closures, isolation and quarantine, and more.
Essex County COVID screenings are offering the molecular diagnostic test. Residents who have questions can get more information about testing and the types of tests available on the FDA’s website here.
Davenport also asked residents to please answer any calls from the Maplewood Public Health Division, as they may be part of the town’s contact tracing program. All information given in contact tracing calls will remain confidential, but you may have to isolate or quarantine depending on your circumstances.
Maplewood’s Social Distancing Ambassador pilot program, which started on July 25, has been a success, according to Davenport. The current team of six youth volunteers, three supervisors and one medical reserve corps volunteer “has been very well received and has had positive experiences,” and the community has been receptive to Ambassadors passing out masks. More masks are distributed on weeknights than on weekends. Masks are provided by the township and the Essex Regional Health Commission.
Ambassadors started staffing the Maplewood farmers’ market this week, and will soon be at township events, like musical performances in the Village.