County Commissioner Carmen Rodriguez, liaison to the Camden County Department of Health and Human Services, advises municipalities that Camden County will be under a Code Blue Alert from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday, 2/1, until noon on Tuesday, 2/2, from 7 p.m. on 2/2 until 10 a.m. on 2/3, and from 7 p.m. on 2/3 until 10 a.m. on 2/4. The County is monitoring a long duration winter storm that will bring widespread snow and dangerously cold temperatures to our area. When temperatures reach this low, it is important to check on elderly relatives and neighbors, and to ensure that they are warm and safe. Even inside, cold conditions can quickly become dangerous for vulnerable populations, especially those who lack heat or electricity. The Camden County Health Department and the Office of Emergency Management have worked with each municipality to ensure they have the proper resources to respond to these severe weather situations as part of their individual Code Blue plans. Each municipality has identified its own location to accommodate those in their community seeking shelter from the severe weather. Persons seeking shelter in a warming center should contact their local municipality. New after-hours Code Blue Emergency Hotline phone number: 2-1-1
Additional resources are available by calling the Camden County Department of Health and Human Services at (800) 999-9045, or by visiting www.camdencounty.com.
Councilman Sean Fitzgerald convened a meeting for those involved with the Merchantville Office of Emergency Management and coordinating entities via video conference on Thursday evening to share information and synchronize efforts moving forward. JP Beauchamp from OEM spoke about working with the County and emergency preparations to obtain PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for our first responders and equipping an EOC (Emergency Operations Center) which will open as a Level 3 center from 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. in the basement of the Community Center if required. He has reviewed the school lunch distribution program developed by Scott Strong and requested that a pdf on basic hand washing/covid-19 symptoms be attached to each brown bag.
Department of Health member, Joan Brennan, is monitoring several sites for information and statistics including the CDC, NJDOH Dashboard, PA DOH Alerts, County Department of Health & Human Services and Kinsa Health/Weather Mapping. She noted that Merchantville has several websites and social media outlets where we can push out information from national/state/county/municipal outlets and virtual meetings/town halls/messages and asked asked about identifying potential cluster housing hotspots like Chestnut Station, Greenleigh Court and Wellwood Manor to determine who is coordinating their preparation efforts. Mayor Brennan stated that Denise Brouse, borough clerk, has been in touch with Chestnut Station an a plan is in place and handouts have been provided. He also mentioned that the Camden County Mayors Association is promoting the importance of the senior food program and community volunteers are welcome.
Police Chief Rich Grassia spoke on changes to central dispatch communications including screening incoming calls with inquiries about recent out of country travel and flu like symptoms. He noted that police are not entering buildings unless necessary when answering calls. The Police Chief Association keeps them current on the number of positive cases in Camden County and is working on ways to better inform police about pockets of contagion. Their info share system will red flag call situations with a Covid-19 tag (cautionary flag). Chief Grassia reported that town residents appear to be heeding warnings because there have been no walk-ups at the Boro Hall police station and no large gatherings noted.The chief and detective are at the police department every day and night shift rotate through to cover the buildings.
Fire Chief Kevin Patti discussed the status of fire, code and public works. The Merchantville Fire Department is restricted to members only, temperature screening is done upon arrival and response modifications with EMS have been made. Merchantville and Pennsauken have established a joint 14 day quarantine space if needed and right now all members healthy. All fire/housing inspections have been canceled but, they continue to complete resale CO inspections and handle minor complaints. Public Works still active and are ready to maintain trash removal in case something happens with our municipal provider, Gold Medal. They have been sanitizing doorknobs twice a day and the phone pad outside the police station can be added.
Mayor Brennan reported that the Mayors Association had decided that individual municipal emergency declarations provided no additional value or power beyond the County declaration so, 37 municipalities agreed to piggy back on the county. Mayor Brennan doesn’t anticipate he will have to put a municipal declaration in place but, we have it if needed. Mayor Brennan was very appreciative of the level of coordination and communication among municipal OEM stakeholder groups and feels we are as prepared as we can be. We hope to avoid a major situation so, the more days we go without cases the better off we will be in 14-16 days. Unless an earlier meeting is necessary the next meeting will take place on Wednesday, 3/26/20 @ 8:00 p.m.
Governor Phil Murphy today signed Executive Order No. 104, implementing aggressive social distancing measures to mitigate further spread of COVID-19 in New Jersey. Among the directives, Governor Murphy’s Executive Order indefinitely closes all public and private preschool, elementary and secondary schools, and institutions of higher education, as well as closes all casinos, racetracks, gyms, movie theaters, and performing arts centers. The order also mandates that all non-essential retail, recreational, and entertainment businesses must cease daily operations from 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. All restaurant establishments, with or without a liquor license, are limited to offering only delivery and/or take out-services only, both during daytime hours and after 8 p.m. In order to slow the spread of COVID-19, Governor Murphy’s executive order directs the following.