I would like to start out by saying how incredibly proud I am of our community. I continually say there is no better place to be than “The Boro” and all of you have proven that over these past two months. The acts of kindness and charity that our schools, private citizens, service groups and businesses have shown towards one another and the unfaltering level of support we have for each other is inspiring. Our residents have been supporting our local businesses that are able to remain open under the Governor’s Executive Orders and in-turn many of those businesses have been donating food and meals to our first-responders and those in need. I am proud and honored to be the Mayor of such a wonderful community and the Borough Council feels the same way.
The updates I have been posting over the last month and a half have contained a great deal of information covering a host of different issues dealing with the Novel Coronavirus, COVID-19, and I hope they have been helpful. I urge you to look at all of them for valuable information. The Borough Council and I have been regularly engaging in weekly conference calls with State and County Officials about COVID-19 and working with emergency personnel around the clock to stay on top of these issues to keep you informed and to keep our community running smoothly.
Working with the State of New Jersey
This past week, Governor Murphy has signed new Executive Orders. One of these orders has been Executive Order #133 opening back up golf courses along with State and County Parks. Please click on the link to read more.
Another was Executive Order #131 creating a Commission to advise the Governor on how to re-open our State. The Governor’s Office stated on our weekly conference call with NJ Mayors that this commission on reopening will be taking a measured approach that will be data driven after seeing certain trends in decreasing numbers of positive cases. For specific information on this Commission and Governor Murphy’s plans please click here.
The Governor also signed Executive Order #130 allowing municipalities to extend the grace period for property taxes. EO #130 allows municipalities to increase the statutory 10 day grace period for the May 1st due date to June 1st. The Borough Council and I have scheduled a special meeting next week to vote to do this. I would like to emphasize that this Executive Order is not a requirement and many towns throughout the State are not doing so because of the logistics involved since the Governor made this option available only at the last minute, but the Borough Council and I feel strongly that we should give every consideration possible to our residents during this crisis and we will.
I encourage you to read my previous updates discussing all other Gubernatorial Executive Orders and amendments pertaining to requirements for businesses and contractors, utilities, marinas and boatyards, mortgages, rent and a host of COVID-19 related subjects. If you would like to read all of the Governor’s Executive Orders in their entirety, you can click on the link for the full list.
I’d like to share again with you the most important link I feel will benefit you and that is the NJ COVID-19 Information HUB. This website has been set up by the State of New Jersey and is your one-stop website for all issues whether you are an individual or a business. There are various portals on this site for general questions about COVID-19 itself, what to do if you are infected or think you are infected, financial assistance and grants for both individuals and businesses along with areas for a range of social services assistance including but not limited to food, mental health and domestic violence.
For those having trouble processing unemployment claims, the New Jersey Department of Labor (NJ DOL) announced several measures to help speed up the process including upgrading computer technology, adding personnel and boosting phone capacity. You can click on the following link to read the press release from the NJ DOL. The NJ DOL has also made available important information on unemployment benefits for self-employed workers, independent contractors and gig workers during this crisis. It has been relayed to me that the NJ Department of Labor will begin notifying recipients of the 1st round of federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance payments for gig workers the week of May 1st.
I would like to share again that the State of New Jersey is launching an Emergency Child Care Assistance Program (ECCAP) to help support child care costs when a parent or guardian is an essential employee, regardless of income.
Working with Ocean County
Recently, the Ocean County drive-thru COVID-19 testing facility was planning to move their operations from Ocean County College to the Ocean County Fire Academy in Waretown. This move will not be happening and the drive-thru testing facility will remain at Ocean County College. If you would like information on how to make an appointment to get tested for COVID-19, please visit the Ocean County Health Department. For links about services, documents, information and help from your Ocean County Government related to COVID-19, please visit the Ocean County COVID-19 Information Page.
COVID-19 In Point Pleasant
In regard to positive cases of COVID-19 in our community, I’ve previously stated that as tests become more available and time moves on, we will inevitably have a rise in positive cases as with all municipalities in our State. The names, addresses and statuses of these individual positive cases will not be revealed due to laws protecting one’s medical history. Not even the Borough Council and I are privy to specific information, only authorized medical personnel have this info as it is not public. Only the total number of cases and now deaths in each municipality are available. Further, it should be noted that this is a running total from when testing began over a month and a half ago, this number does not reflect recoveries, the Ocean County Health Department has not yet started to subtract recovered cases from the total. I’ve previously shared with you the link to view them daily and will share again below. I am in continual contact with health officials and have made multiple pleas for them to release the number of recovered cases as well. I think the people of Point Pleasant need to see the recovered cases and not just a running total of cases from the beginning.
You can see the total number of cases not just in Point Pleasant but in every municipality in Ocean County daily by clicking on the link to the Ocean County Health Department. You can also click on the NJ Department of Health page as well for State numbers. It should be noted that a large majority of our cases here in Point Pleasant have come from nursing homes and adult care facilities as with so many other communities. We know this because nursing homes and care facilities are required to report their numbers and that has become public information. These facilities house some of our most vulnerable residents and our thoughts and prayers are with them as they are with everyone.
There is no need for you to be panicked by these numbers but there is a need for you to be concerned and to practice social distancing and good hygiene habits. The Ocean County Health Department is the lead agency for investigation of cases involving a positive COVID-19 person. If it is determined that a resident is in close contact with someone infected with COVID-19, the County Health Department will reach out. The County Health Department conducts a thorough contact tracing exercise on each case and notifies anyone that could have come in contact with that individual.
In recent news articles, Governor Murphy has repeatedly stated that the number of new positive cases is starting to slow down and the effects of social distancing are starting to be seen at the Jersey Shore. I can say that we are starting to see the numbers here in Point Pleasant slow down as well. I am heartened by this, but that does not mean we can start being lax. We must remain vigilant and do our part to help flatten the curve. Unless you are going shopping for essential items, going to work because you are an essential employee or going outside for fresh air and exercise in a responsible manner, the best thing for you to continue to do is stay home. The Borough Council and I cannot stress enough the need to practice strict social distancing and good hygiene habits. It is imperative that we all do our part to help flatten the curve and prevent further spread of COVID-19.
Food, Social Services Assistance & Help
Some of the challenges that this pandemic has presented us are not just financial. Some deal with having an adequate supply of food for families and seniors while others relate not just to physical health, but mental health as well. Some suffering from various addictions also need somewhere to turn to as being quarantined could have lasting implications. Others unfortunately could be faced with a situation involving domestic violence. In a previous post I shared some links to find assistance should you need them, you can revisit that post by clicking here. Ocean County is also helping to get food to senior citizens through the Ocean County Office of Senior Services. To volunteer or to help put seniors in need in contact with them, please click here.
Supporting our Local Economy
Our Point Pleasant Borough Chamber of Commerce has been doing an excellent job promoting local businesses that are still able to remain open. I previously posted an update regarding this with links to help support those businesses. I ask you to revisit that post by clicking here.
COVID-19 Related Scams
Unfortunately, even during a time of crisis there will be those that prey on the unsuspecting and vulnerable members of our society. It is important to remain vigilant and be able to recognize when someone is taking advantage of you. With stimulus and government assistance scams occurring as stimulus funds are starting to arrive via checks and direct deposits, remember that the government will not ask you to pay anything up front. Anyone who calls and asks for you social security number, bank account or credit card information is a scammer. Grandparent and sick family member scams are also on the rise taking advantage of this pandemic. The numbers and emails from your relatives and friends most likely are not genuine, if you get a call like this, reach out to your family member or friend directly. Also, be on the lookout for phony charities and crowdfunding. We are ‘Jersey Strong’ and we come together in times of need, scammers know this too. Be sure to research where a charitable donation is going and who is doing the fundraising. There are also fake mandatory COVID-19 test scams from people posing as government and health officials looking to get your personal, financial and medical information.
The NJ Attorney General and U.S. Attorney announced the creation of a State of New Jersey and Federal joint task force to investigate and prosecute those who are exploiting this pandemic. If you believe you are being victimized or know of someone who is, you can call the National Center for Disaster Fraud’s National Hotline at 866-720-5721.
Municipal Operations in Point Pleasant
Even though Borough Hall is closed to the public, we are still performing essential functions to keep our community operational. All essential functions can still be accomplished either by mail, email or going onto our website. I encourage you to check our website often for changes to any services and to revisit past public notices. Public Works services also continue and garbage, recycling and leaf collection schedules are on time. Additionally, hydrant flushing has been completed as of April 29th.
As I previously stated, under Executive Order #130 municipalities now have the option to extend the statutory 10-day grace period for property taxes due on May 1st to June 1st. The Borough Council and I have decided to take advantage of this and will extend the grace period to June 1st for our residents.
I am pleased to report that the balance we have taken in handling this outbreak has become the new model for the rest of the State in regard to our outdoor amenities. This week Governor Murphy decided to reopen golf courses and State & County Parks with some stipulations. While New Jersey ordered all State and County Parks closed and other municipalities shut their parks down completely at the beginning of this pandemic, we took a more measured and common-sense approach. From the beginning, we closed our beaches, boardwalk, basketball and tennis courts, skate park and playground equipment because those attractions by nature prohibit social distancing and will remain closed until further notice. The Borough Council and I strongly believed that there still needed to be an outlet for passive recreation and kept our open space fields open to the public. It has worked out well for us and we would like to thank all of you for following proper social distancing practices. While our open spaces remain open … team sports, picnics and group gatherings are still strictly forbidden and social distancing must be adhered to. You are also encouraged to wear a face-mask when in the park. We want you to get fresh air and exercise in a responsible manner. There is signage posted at all of our sites stating COVID-19 precautions and our Police Department has increased their patrols and will ask those not adhering to social distancing guidelines to vacate the premises. In regard to our two riverfront beaches, we will make plans to re-open them once our neighboring towns make sound plans to reopen their beaches. If we are the only beaches open, the influx of visitors to them will be too much to handle and could lead to greater problems.
As a reminder, the Borough Council and I also prohibited all Air B&B, Vacation Rentals by Owner and all short-term rentals until further notice along with suspending all door to door solicitors permits.
Through our Recreation Department, we have employees calling Senior Citizens that would normally participate in our Senior Beehive programs. These calls are made weekly to those we have listed as isolated or vulnerable. We reach out, say hello and let them know they are not alone during these difficult times. Our Police Department also operates Operation Reassurance year-round where they will check on senior citizens and those living alone under special circumstances regularly. To sign up for Operation Reassurance, you can visit the Police Department’s Page on our Borough website.
While this month marks our Centennial Year as Point Pleasant Borough turns 100 years old on Tuesday May 19th, our Saturday May 16th celebration at Riverfront Park has been postponed due to the pandemic. Rest assured, this celebration is being rescheduled for later in the year when it will be safe for all of us to celebrate together.
For up-to-date emergency information, I ask that you follow the Borough of Point Pleasant’s Office of Emergency Management Facebook Page and The Borough of Point Pleasant’s Police Department’s Facebook Page. You can also sign up for free NIXLE text message alerts by clicking the link on our Borough website’s home page.
The Borough Council and I would like to again thank our employees for their dedication and hard work in these trying times. Our staff at Borough Hall and Public Works have truly shown what it means to be public servants. We would also like to thank our emergency personnel as well. Our Police, Fire and First Aid Departments have been working harder than ever and we cannot thank them enough for putting themselves on the front lines of this pandemic. On behalf of all of our residents, we put up a banner in the center of town thanking them and essential employees everywhere.
The Borough Council and I would like to also once again thank our community for your patience and understanding during these trying times. I constantly say there is no better place to be than “The Boro” and the way we have all pulled together recently proves that.
Mayor Robert A. Sabosik