COVID-19 Update from Mayor Manzo – 3/30/2020

Mayor Lou Manzo provides regular updates on the COVID-19 crisis. This is the 3/30 update.

Dear Residents & Business Owners:

I begin today’s update with the results and feedback from this past weekend’s Harrison Township Emergency Management Senior & Disabled Outreach Program. You’ll recall that Committeewoman Julie DeLaurentis and Committeeman Adam Wingate were partnering with Harrison Township Emergency Management Coordinator, Captain Brian Bartholomew, on this project. The intent is to personally connect with seniors and higher-risk residents during this crisis and serve their needs as they arise. This first outreach was very successful and well-received. Here is what Committeeman Wingate had to say: 

“Julie and I are happy to report a successful first round of calls. I’d like to start by acknowledging the work and dedication of our crew of volunteers over the last week. The 17 volunteers reached out via phone call, text message and email over the weekend. There were 429 phone calls to the elderly and disabled residents and a volunteer spoke with 65% of those called and left messages for the rest. The feedback was very positive, with an overwhelming expression of gratitude for the personal outreach.”

We will be assisting several residents this week and plan another round of calls in the next 7-10 days. Our list is certain to expand since the Registration Form is posted on our Harrison Township website. As a lifelong resident, it was truly heartwarming to see and hear so much enthusiasm from the volunteers and the recipients of the calls. Together, we are Harrison strong!”

Thank you to Julie, Adam and Brian for undertaking this project. We’ll keep you updated on its progress going forward.

On the topic of saying “thank you”, I want to turn your attention to the “front-line responders” combating the COVID-19 virus every day. I know we all realize that the Police, Fire and EMS crews are out there dealing with this firsthand and often “first contact” with this virus. But today, I’m talking about the Doctors and Nurses that are treating patients suspected of having the virus and obviously, those who test positive and become ill; some very ill and some who succumb to the virus. Those of you in that business or those who have family members or close friends providing this care know what I mean. Some of these stories are heartbreaking.

I have heard from several Doctors and Nurses on that front line and they have given me a glimpse of what they are dealing with daily. They have advised me on certain things to say here, to help with the public understanding. I will pick and choose what I share with you but make no mistake about my intention; it is to ground us to some of the realities of what we are confronting. Some of that can get lost in our four walls as we watch the national news reports. It can almost seem like the Coronavirus is happening somewhere else; not to us; not here. 

Even though I believe in taking the positive view of things, we need to identify with the pain of COVID-19 and pray that we are fortunate enough to not have the virus touch us or those close to us. The inconveniences and the limitations we are facing seem insignificant when you identify with the other realities. In fact, we should find gratitude in the fact that we are only dealing with this “Stay at Home Order.” One ER Doc emailed me that we all should “remember while you’re complaining that you have to stay home, there are healthcare workers getting ready for work right now with knots in their stomach.”

This is a common theme from these front-line health professionals. They are “disappointed” or “frustrated” with how many people are downplaying or ignoring the Stay at Home Order. I’ve had pictures texted to me by some showing the Wawa parking lot near the hospital after the 8PM curfew crowded with cars. Clearly not everyone in there works at the hospital or some other essential job at that time. I’ve been asked to “remind them of all the essential workers going to our jobs and risking ourselves so they can be safe at home.”

Another local doctor struck that same chord about staying at home, social distancing and all the preventative measures we can take. He said, “Coronavirus Testing is far behind in detection as it only picks up late cases.” He went on to say, “We are fortunate to have some advantages in South Jersey. Our population density is considerably less than central or north jersey; that’s a good thing.”

We need to leverage this advantage individually. The doctor’s opinion is that we should consider ourselves “fortunate” to have the option of this “temporary inconvenience of being homebound.” When you consider the alternative – it really is all about putting it into proper perspective.

The most impactful thing a doctor said to me is possibly the best way to awaken ourselves on how fortunate we currently are. She said, “I think the main thing people don’t realize is that when you get really ill with this virus, you are completely and utterly alone. There are no visitors allowed in the hospital and it does not matter how sick you are. People are dying alone begging nurses to help them FaceTime family members to say goodbye. It’s absolutely horrific. There are no exceptions to the visitor policy right now.” This is coming from a local doctor with friends and colleagues working in hospitals in New York and North Jersey providing that firsthand account.

This doctor went on to say, “So, people staying home is saving their friends, family members or themselves from potentially having to die alone in the hospital. The geographical surge is coming.” Collectively, we are still in a position to mitigate the surge in our region if we strictly abide by the existing protocols. Stay at home unless absolutely necessary for the stated purposes in the Governor’s Order. Let’s error on the side of being too diligent until we have more concrete evidence that we can pivot to more normal behavior.

I am so proud of our community on multiple levels. Let’s set the bar on observing these social distancing and stay-at-home protocols. Now more than ever we must be Harrison Strong!

Together for Harrison Township,
Lou Manzo
Your Mayor