MAPLEWOOD / SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt daily life across the world, South Orange and Maplewood officials are providing updates every day to residents about cases in the towns and how they are being handled. As of March 20, South Orange has three confirmed cases of the virus in the village. Maplewood has nine cases, according to a statement posted to the township website from Mayor Frank McGehee on March 22.
“Each person’s recent contact history is being investigated by the Maplewood Public Health Division,” McGehee said. “They are contacting anyone who has potentially been exposed and coordinating with other local health departments and health care providers.”
All township facilities in Maplewood remain closed to the public. Drop-off boxes have been installed at Town Hall, the police station, the fire stations and DeHart Community Center to ensure residents can deposit applications and payments as needed.
If Maplewoodians suspect they have been in contact with a person who has COVID-19, they should call the Maplewood Health Division at 973-762-8120. The state coronavirus hotline number is 800-222-1222.
McGehee also encouraged residents to respond to the 2020 census.
“While under Gov. Murphy’s stay-at-home order, this is the great time to respond. It took me seven minutes and 20 seconds today to respond. According to 2020census.gov, as of March 22, 18.1 percent of New Jersey’s households have filled out the census. Maplewood is only at 18.3 percent. Let’s work toward leading our state in responses,” he said. “If you do not respond, your household will receive a series of additional reminders, and census takers will follow up in person at households to collect responses. In light of the current environment, let’s all work together and avoid the in-person phase.”
Although nonessential retail is closed to the public, several Maplewood businesses are still able to deliver or drop off items while following social distancing guidelines. A list of Springfield Avenue restaurants and stores that are still operating can be found at www.springfieldavenue.com/covid19-updates.
In a press release on March 29, South Orange Village President Sheena Collum urged residents to stay home and practice social distancing.
“I’m asking everyone to do better. In fact, I’m asking everyone to be exceptional in our efforts to ‘flatten the curve’ and practice strict social distancing. Our best defense right now is an extremely aggressive offense,” she said. “I am recommending and urging that you stay home and avoid all unnecessary travel and interactions to the greatest extent possible. Remember, we are collectively responsible for, and accountable to, each other.”
Included in the release was a message from one of the villagers who tested positive for COVID-19. The identity of the person is withheld for privacy reasons, but he said he is a 51-year-old man in relatively good health with no major underlying conditions.
“On March 5 I saw my primary care physician with some tightness in my chest that had been present for a few weeks. After being on a steroid inhaler for a week, I woke up with more symptoms: a hacking cough and increased difficulty breathing,” the resident said. “Given that I felt lousy and that my kids were with their other parent, I began self-isolating at home that morning. It’s important to say that prior to this, I maintained a normal schedule, meeting with several groups, small and large, across the state. All that time I felt ‘myself’ — some chest junkiness but nothing noteworthy.”
After calling all the hotlines he could think of, the resident was given a coronavirus test at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck on March 15. He received the positive results on March 19.
“There are two key things I would highlight from this experience: 1. Not all COVID-19 symptoms will be the same. Everyone talks about the fever; I never got one. Some who contract the virus will be asymptomatic or have only a little cough. This has serious implications for potential widespread community infection. Please stay as isolated/socially distanced as possible to help out our ER/hospital staff, home health workers, and older and immunocompromised folks,” the resident said. “2. ER departments and their nurses, doctors, cleaning staff, etc., are all under intense pressure right now. I saw this a week ago in Teaneck and have been thinking about ways to help. Fruit baskets and cards might be nice; even better, maybe we can find some way to donate those extra masks and gloves some of us bought ‘just in case’ but which are now desperately needed at area health facilities.”
In addition to the three village residents who tested positive for COVID-19, South Orange Rescue Squad and Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Scott Egelberg announced in a press release on March 18 that a Seton Hall University employee tested positive for the virus.
“We now have learned that a female Seton Hall University employee has tested positive for the virus,” Egelberg said. “This employee does not reside in South Orange, and the university is working with her hometown’s local health department regarding recent contact history.”
In the release, Egelberg also gave residents information about New Jersey’s mental health hotline.
“If you are feeling stressed, anxious or depressed due to COVID-19, New Jersey has a mental health helpline. Please call 877-294-4357 or visit their website for emotional support, guidance and mental health referrals as needed,” he said. The website is www.njmentalhealthcares.org.
As in Maplewood, all township facilities in South Orange remain closed to the public.