COVID-19 Update from Mayor Manzo – 3/23/2020

Mayor Lou Manzo provides regular updates on the COVID-19 crisis. This is the 3/23 update.

Dear Residents & Business Owners:

As we enter workweek 1 of the Governor’s Stay at Home Order, I want to address some questions that I’ve received from residents. Let’s start by clarifying exactly what the Stay at Home Order really means. At the risk of being over-simplistic, it means don’t leave your house unless you have to. Here’s a link to our township website with a summary of those rules.

The summary details what you may and may not do. You may leave your house to get any food item (either grocery store or takeout pick-up) and going out for any medical-related issue (ie MD appt, medicine, etc.) is allowed. Obviously, leaving your house to attend an essential job is ok and (believe it or not) you can leave to visit “family, close friends, caretakers or romantic partners.” Check the link provided to view the entire list. Keep in mind, regardless of how this crisis evolves, you will ALWAYS be permitted to leave your home for food or medical attention.

I’ve also fielded questions about what qualifies as an “essential” business? The list includes the obvious like grocery stores, pharmacies, medical supply stores, gas stations and banks. But notably, the list also includes farms, farmers markets and auto and farm equipment repair shops. Liquor stores are included, and I was asked several times why? The answer directly from the Governor’s office is “considering that alcohol addiction exists and limiting liquor sales could force some into alcohol withdrawal, which would put excessive pressure on our healthcare system at this critical time.” Hence its inclusion on the list.

Speaking of the Governor’s office, they hosted a conference call last night at 7PM for all the Mayors and County Administrators in Gloucester, Salem and Cumberland Counties. They addressed our questions and some “gray areas” in the Executive Orders. I also continue my daily 10AM County conference calls and tonight I have a call just with the Gloucester County Mayors, so we can all talk about “best practices” happening in every town. I share this with you as assurance that there is no lack of communication between these various levels of government. As I mentioned in my last update, connection with the federal level is even directly reaching us at the municipal level. Our call with Senators Booker and Menendez was informative and focused on action, as is the case with all these other calls. Perhaps this can be a lasting positive shift in the aftermath of the Coronavirus crisis, where elected officials focus mainly on getting stuff done for the good of the people?

In the past Updates, I’ve included several links as resources and today I include a link to our own Gloucester County website that has a COVID-19 Information tab.

Keeping it simple, this is a great one-stop-shop for basic information about the virus, the do’s & don’ts, access to outbreak updates in the county/state and links to other supportive resources. Add this link to your list.

Locally, beyond some of the questions that our residents have posed, I’m also getting some great input and advice. For example, several local doctors have given me information worth sharing. I mentioned the telehealth visits in my last update, but a local Doctor, contacted me to clarify this information. Here’s what he said:

“Finally, I wanted to also stress the importance of regular well child visits for infants and young children even during the pandemic (Well visits for some older children and adolescents can be postponed). Children receive vaccines at most of their well care visits in the first 5 years. It is vital that we continue to vaccinate our infants and children or we face the risk of waves of other disease several months from now. Just last year, New Jersey and New York saw a measles epidemic due to unimmunized communities. If we allow the pandemic to slow down our efforts to vaccinate, we will see the rise of measles, whooping cough, meningitis, and other diseases in the coming months. It would be helpful to have you reiterate this and to ask patients and families to call their physicians with questions as to which visits are necessary and which can be postponed or done as telehealth.”

Special thanks to Dr. Paul Matz for that input. Dr. Matz is a Mullica Hill resident and a Pediatrician with Advocare Haddon Pediatrics, also in Mullica Hill. This is important stuff, so consult with your personal pediatrician about it.

Beyond input from our local medical professionals, I’ve received an outpouring of offers to help and volunteer from many of you. Seriously, many of the responses I’m getting to these updates include offers to help our community. It is heartwarming and a reminder of the spirit of our community, which we all cherish so much. As I’ve responded in my personal emails, the best thing you can do right now is take care of yourself and your families. When the time comes for needed assistance in Harrison, your name is on our list of potential volunteers. Thank you.

I’ll end with another thanks for all the feedback on our decision to light our Christmas Tree at Old Town Hall. Symbols of unity are important right now. Spicer resident, Lucille Marzano of Spicer Estates, here in town, emailed me her approval of the tree lighting and mentioned that she placed American flags in front of her property as a sign of solidarity. Love that too! So, please feel free to join us by put up some Christmas lights or display Old Glory and let’s paint our town with visual support for each other. We are Harrison Strong!

Together for Harrison Township,
Lou Manzo
Your Mayor