By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
Although some might feel a somewhat false sense of security in the Downbeach area due to lack of specific numbers being reported in daily updates from Atlantic County, the best advice anyone can give is to assume you have the virus and just stay home so you don’t give it to someone else.
Atlantic County confirmed 41 cases in the county as of Wednesday morning, but did not provide the hometowns of those patients.
Ventnor Office of Emergency Management today confirmed there are two know coronavirus cases in the City of Ventnor, but no further information about the patients is known, Emergency Management Coordinator Donna Peterson said.
Local officials, including Police, Fire and Emergency Medical Services are bound by Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations that guarantee all Americans medical privacy and cannot disclose information about individual cases, she said.
Peterson said call volume is down slightly and that first responders are taking all the necessary precautions to protect themselves when responding to calls, including donning full protective gear.
When asked if Ventnor has enough protective gear, she said, “No one has enough.”
“What we really want to stress to people is to stay home,” she said. “Our dispatchers will ask a series of questions when a call for service comes in to properly prepare for response. We’re doing the best we can to protect ourselves and the public.”
The process to notify communities is for the Atlantic County Department of Health to notify the Atlantic County Office of Emergency Management, which in turn, notifies the local municipality’s emergency management official, Peterson said, but the information provided is limited.
In Margate, Emergency Manager Chuck LaBarre said that in a town used to responding to emergencies during storms and flooding, the pandemic has “blurred lines.”
He confirmed two positive cases and said emergency personnel had no contact with those patients.
“Weathering this pandemic has its challenges, but our team is fully responsive to the needs of the community. Police, Fire and EMS is well equipped and will handle this like they have in the past, with the highest level of professionalism,” he said.
In nearby Egg Harbor Township, Mayor Paul Hodson sent a letter to residents confirming the township was notified it currently has three residents who tested positive for the disease.
“Our thoughts are with this resident and family,” he said.
County health officials conduct a thorough investigation about the patient’s whereabouts and then contact anyone who may have been exposed to offer support and guidance, he said.
“EHT is a strong community, but this confirmed case is a reminder to all that we are not immune to current public health concerns,” he wrote in his letter, asking residents to help “flatten the curve.”
He recommended following CDC guidelines, practice social distancing, avoid public transportation, traveling and attending large gatherings, and seek guidance from your medical provider should you develop symptoms, he said.
Longport OEM Coordinator Bruce Funk said he was not authorized to comment about the number of cases in the borough, however, Mayor Nicholas Russo, who is also a volunteer firefighter, confirmed Longport had one reported case.
“I do not know if it is a full-time or part-time resident, nor the person’s identity,” Russo said.
He authorized the closure of Atlantic Avenue leading to Longport Point, which has become a place for people to congregate while they take in the beauty of the bay.
“I can’t stop it, but I can limit it by blocking off the street so people can’t park there,” he said.
Police erected heavy blockades at 11th Avenue, but residents can access their homes using Point Drive, he said.
“People have to be able to get outside for exercise and sunshine, but they have to use proper judgement and adhere to CDC guidelines,” he said.
He also posted a letter to all residents on the borough’s website thanking emergency responders and asking part-time residents to stay in their primary homes.
“We are grateful for all our wonderful residents, year-round and summer,” he said. “Unfortunately, the Borough is not prepared at this time to service an increase in residents nearly two months sooner than anticipated.”
He further stated the concern is not unique to Longport and quoted Gov. Phil Murphy whose recent Tweet urged those who have homes at the Jersey shore to avoid visiting at this time.
“The local infrastructure, especially the health care infrastructure, is not prepared for the influx of part-time residents. Please stay in your primary residences,” the governor stated.
“Tough decisions and the strict measures implemented now will help flatten the curve and hopefully get us through these unprecedented times as quickly as possible,” Russo said.
To recall what Gov. Gavin Newsome of California, which has been hard-hit with cases, said in a recent television interview, it’s a misnomer to call it social distancing.
It’s really physical distancing, he said. You can always socialize online.
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