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Maplewood Mayor McGehee: December 24 COVID and Township Update

From Maplewood Mayor Frank McGehee:

Good Afternoon,

As we experience 2020 coming to a close, no one can argue that this year has been very challenging for every person in our community. That said, it has been an honor to serve our community and I want to thank my colleagues and our amazing administration, department heads and staff for all their efforts. Although we change the calendar, the work continues.

COVID-19 update

Although the vaccination is here and the county will begin Phase 1A vaccinating of healthcare workers (defined as any paid or unpaid person working or volunteering in a healthcare setting who may have direct or indirect contact with infectious persons or material) this Saturday and the week of December 28, we are not out of the woods by any stretch of our imagination.

Yesterday, Maplewood’s confirmed cases broke the 700 person threshold. We are currently at 712 cases. If you factor in when we first announced our state of emergency the night of March 12th, that is a daily average of 2.5 confirmed cases a day.

However, in December alone we have had 124 confirmed cases to date, which amounts to 17 percent of our overall cases since we started to collect the data in late March.  Nearly 1/5 of all our cases are in the last 24 days. Cases are spiking, so here are the  actions that you can take to help curb the recent spike:

  • Avoid any type of indoor gatherings.If you do engage in any type of indoor gathering, wear face coverings.
  • Keep all types of gatherings to immediate household members and try to avoid visiting those who are immunocompromised.
  • Keep your number of interactions and the number of people at any gathering as low as possible. Attempt to space out your interactions with different people.
  • Do not go anywhere if you’re sick, and do not dismiss it as a cold or allergies.
  • Wear your face coverings and wash your hands frequently.

Testing:

Please check out www.essexcovid.org to register for a test

Or visit Maplewood’s COVID-19 website: https://www.twp.maplewood.nj.us/covid19 for a list of testing locations.

Resources:

Volunteering – It takes a Township and a Village

We created a robust team to align our communications, public safety, transportation and logistics, safety, and volunteer recruitment efforts.  We also worked with our sister municipality South Orange on our overarching vaccination plan to help address questions regarding the vaccination program which will occur at the former Sears department store at the Livingston Mall.

The Vaccine Plan overview is located at www.twp.maplewood.nj.us/vaccine and includes key information including the type of vaccine, its availability to you based on the phased rollout, and how the vaccine works.

One of the most critical metrics of success for our program will be our ability to get over 70 percent of our residents vaccinated by the end of June 2021. I plan to take the vaccine as soon as it’s available to me and I urge all eligible residents to do the same. 

Another critical metric of success for our program will be our ability as a community to volunteer and serve.  The County has requested Administration/Clerical and Vaccine Administrator Volunteers (Healthcare professionals).

Although we have over 550 volunteers from both municipalities to date, we need more.  Our vaccination center will be active for approximately 162 days, 6 days a week and serving from 250 to eventually 1,000 citizens a day.  We still need a substantial number of residents to volunteer to be pre-screeners, line attendants, guides and hosts.

Please join our ranks and serve your greater community by filling out the volunteer application today: https://forms.gle/Tf4cFoeF2pr4vVHm7

Phase 1A Vaccinations

As previously mentioned, starting this Saturday, healthcare workers will be eligible to get vaccinated. The vaccine will be administered by appointment only. If you are a healthcare worker please make an appointment by visiting www.EssexCOVID.org or calling 973-877-8456.

Local Businesses

Our work continues to find a new occupant for the former Kings property as well as our beloved movie theater. We are encouraged by the amount of interest both locally and regionally regarding the spaces and we will keep the community informed.

In the interim, please continue to do your part by supporting our local businesses (especially today for those who celebrate Christmas and wait to the last second to buy a gift).  Please patronize Springfield Ave https://www.springfieldavenue.com/, Maplewood Village http://maplewoodvillagenj.com/ and RidgewoodRow https://www.facebook.com/ridgewood.row/  #shopsomalocal

New Township Administrator Search

Our efforts to find a new full time administrator are on schedule and the Township will be interviewing potential candidates in the coming weeks. Please stay tuned.  I want to recognize and thank our interim Administrator, Gregg Schuster, for stepping in and stepping up to assist with leading our day to day Township operations.

The Stormfront

A storm is expected this evening bringing heavy rain with a potential accumulation of 2 inches of rain. Combined with the melting snow, this could lead to minor flooding. Strong 25-35 mph winds and damaging 50-60 mph wind gusts from the Southeast are  also expected, leading to the potential for tree damage and power outages.  Please prepare accordingly in regards to your electronic devices.

Caring and Community

This year we have seen the true power of service in our community. So many people from all walks of life have done their part to help others in need during this pandemic. At one point during this year I was recognizing some of those organizations and people, calling them MAPSO heroes.

From FLAG (Front Line Appreciation Group) of South Orange and Maplewood, which at one point was sending nearly 1300 meals to Newark Beth Israel, University Hospital, St. Michael’s, East Orange General, and the V.A. while raising tens of thousands of dollars for both Maplewood and South Orange restaurants, to MEND’s Food pantries that serve hundreds of people/families on Saturdays from Maplewood, South Orange, and Essex county.

From Jake Ezzo and the SOMA NJ 3D Printer Alliance Assembly Squad who assembled and delivered tens of thousands face shields to frontline healthcare workers and first responders all over Essex County, to the SOMA Sewing Volunteer team, 500+ members lead by Jean Ng-Gilio, Tina Kelley, Maria Sensenich, and Alba A La Mode that made and donated masks to healthcare professionals, first responders or anyone in need of a mask.

From the launch of a Virtual Tip Jar campaign that supported service industry employees who were directly affected by the COVID-19 shelter-in-place mandate to the many other programs, acts of volunteerism and contributions made this year by our community to help us during one of our greatest times of need, thank you again.

Stay safe and Happy Holidays

Mayor Frank

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