South Orange Sees Uptick in COVID-19 Cases After June Parties, Events, Protests

by Colleen Falconer
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COVID-19 cases in South Orange and across New Jersey are slightly back on the rise. At a Board of Trustees meeting on Monday, Trustee Karen Hilton stated that “the numbers are relatively small compared to other communities and the nation, but we’ve seen an uptick in the past month.”

South Orange has seen 9 new cases in the past week. South Orange Health Officer John Festa attributed the new cases to people attending protests, parties and events throughout June, and not wearing masks or staying 6 feet apart when doing so.

Trustee Hilton asked Festa about the state of contact tracing in the community. “One of the cases, when we did contact tracing, brought in three different health departments”– South Orange, Maplewood, and Roseland– “because of parties that were held in this town,” Festa answered. Four more positive cases resulted in South Orange alone as a result of that case.

“As far as contact tracing and investigation, with my two primary nurses…we’re able to handle what we’re receiving, so that’s not a problem,” Festa added. The contact tracing team has called residents in investigations, as well as delivering letters to their homes when phone calls are not returned.

Village President Sheena Collum took to Facebook on Tuesday to beseech residents to continue to maintain social distancing and wear face coverings. Since her post, she confirmed that another resident had tested positive, which brings the total this week to 10.

She noted that only two out of the new cases were from the same household “so this is not an ‘isolated’ occurrence.” She gave the breakdown of ages/gender as: 45/F, 49/F, 73/F, 24/F, 55/F, 56/M, 66/F, 22/F, 49/F. “It’s a mixed bag of out-of-state travel, backyard gatherings, through a contact trace, ‘don’t know’,” Collum wrote.

“I’m a little concerned about a spike we’re seeing in South Orange. We’ve had 9 positive test cases in the past week. The prior week had 0. This brings our totals to 116 positives and 1,979 negatives. Sadly, we have lost 4 members of our South Orange community to COVID-19.

ICYMI: Today, the State of New Jersey reported 565 new cases, the single highest daily total since early June.

So let’s just take a moment to go back to the basics and recommit ourselves to some guiding principles:

We should always have our face coverings when we’re out in public. The added benefit of the face covering is also that it stops us from always touching our face. We also serve as a walking advertisement of “we protect each other”

 We should always be trying to maintain at least 6 feet of distance, but that’s a “minimum”. If you can do more, do it!

 We should be washing our hands. This is a great habit to take with us well into the future too.

 We should be avoiding large gatherings as much as we can.

 We should be mindful of where we travel to, do our best to avoid hot spots, and quarantine for 14 days if returning from a state that’s on our travel advisory list.

Adjusting our habits (to the best extent we can) will absolutely yield incredible results for public health and economic recovery. I am so confident we can do this. Please join me!”

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