Maplewood has seen 17 more cases of residents diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last month; however, the town’s overall positivity rate and the rate by which the virus is spreading remains relatively low.
That was the word from Health Director Candice Davenport at Tuesday night’s Board of Health meeting, which was part of the virtual Township Committee meeting. The latest stats for Maplewood as of August 27, 2020:
- Positivity rate: 1.41% (NJ statewide rate as of 8/29/20 was 2.49%)
- Rate of Transmission: 0.92 (NJ statewide rate as of 9/2/20 was 0.96)
“That’s a really good sign; people are doing what they need to do” regarding masks and social distancing, she said.
Davenport also addressed confusion surrounding the Center for Disease Control (CDC)’s recent revision to its testing guidelines that said people without symptoms “do not necessarily” need to be tested for the virus — even if they had been in close proximity to someone diagnosed with COVID.
Davenport pointed out that the guidelines make an exception for when “State or local public health officials recommend you take [a test].”
“…as the public health officer, I do recommend that if you have been exposed to someone potentially or confirmed positive, even if you don’t have symptoms, we advise you to get a test,” said Davenport. People with questions can call the health department at (973) 762-8120 ext. 4400.
However, if you have not been in close contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 and you don’t have symptoms, you do not need a test, she said.
Deputy Mayor Dean Dafis asked how people would know if they were in close contact with an infected person. Davenport said the health department reaches out to individuals who have been close to infected people through contact tracing.
“I want to be careful about the message we are sending out to the community,” said Dafis. He said “the new CDC guidelines were politically motivated; that’s a fact” and that as a township, “Our message should be: ‘Be tested.’ ” Dafis said it was particularly as society begins reopening (gyms just reopened, indoor dining, movie theaters and more are returning by the end of the week, and some NJ schools are reopening for in-person instruction.)
After working to increase testing and encourage people to obtain them, “I don’t want people to misunderstand” what Maplewood’s message is, said Dafis.
Davenport confirmed: “What I’m saying is, we do recommend you to get [a test.]”
In other COVID news, Davenport said the Dept. of Health has received a number of questions from the community about how parents can form “learning pods” safely during remote instruction. She said the DOH is working with the South Orange-Maplewood School District to get information out to families.
Maplewood will once again hold COVID-19 testing at the Maplewood Community Pool, on Sept 8 from 4-6 p.m. (Register here.) In addition, the Salerno medical mobile clinic will return to the pool from Sept. 21- Oct. 30 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. More information will follow, Davenport said.
The Social Distancing Ambassador program has been extended through the end of September. SDAs distributed more than 1,200 face coverings in August, Davenport reported.
Davenport said overall, she and her team were seeing “increased visible mask compliance” in town. Dafis asked where there was room for improvement. “There is concern when groups of people get together,” Davenport said, noting that the town is asking people to continue practicing social distancing while they dine and play outdoors. “We are not out of the woods yet.”
She cited a recent incident at the town basketball courts where people were not complying with SDAs’ requests to wear masks, and were treating the ambassadors aggressively. “That is not appropriate.”
“Enjoy our parks and facilities,” said Davenport, but comply with the township’s ordinances.
“It’s a very challenging situation,” said Mayor Frank McGehee. But, “if people do not want to listen…then we will take down rims and close tennis courts and do what we need to do. That’s it, if people aren’t going to listen it will force our hand to do something we don’t want to do. There’s an option…you can listen and join us with as we try to keep our cases down” and continue with reopening, “but if our greater community doesn’t want to listen we will have to take things away.”
See the full Dept. of Health report here: