Message from the Mayor, April 13, 2020

Covid-19 hits Juniper Village hard as Townshipwide numbers level off

Health officials have been predicting that the Coronavirus pandemic in New Jersey could begin to level off soon, but could be expected to get worse before it gets better.

Both of those predictions proved true in Chatham Township over the Easter weekend.

From Friday through Monday, the Health Department reported a total of only eight new cases among the Township's general population, a four-day snapshot which – if it continues – would support the prediction that new cases could start to level off.

But during the same four-day period, the Health Department reported a disturbing number of 28 new cases at the Juniper Village assisted living facility.

Those two numbers combined brought the total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Chatham Township from 45 last Thursday to 81 on Monday, reminding us that it is far too soon to let our guard down. 

Juniper Village has been locked down to all visitors including the families of residents, and health officials from state and local Health Departments say they have been communicating daily with Juniper Village's staff to check on conditions, staffing levels, supplies of protective equipment, and compliance with the facility's emergency plan.

The Township has reached out through our local Health Department to offer any assistance we can. Our thoughts and prayers are with the residents and staff at Juniper Village, and with the families who are separated from their elderly loved ones whose medical conditions can change dramatically and tragically with little warning. 

The message for all of us to take from these latest numbers is that the coronavirus pandemic is far from over; that the most vulnerable among us continue to be the elderly and those with underlying health issues; and that any of us can be infected and risk infecting others, even if we don't show any symptoms ourselves.

The most important guidance continues to be to stay home as much as possible; to limit outdoor activities to essential trips and exercise, and to maintain a safe social distance of six feet from anyone who is not a member of your immediate household.  The CDC recommends that everyone wear a face mask when among other people.

All state and county parks remain closed, including the Loantaka Preserve, Giralda Farms and the Outdoor Education Center on Southern Boulevard in the Township. The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge has closed the boardwalks of its Wildlife Observation Area on New Vernon Road in Long Hill. The popularity of all these facilities made safe distancing impossible.  

Township parks remain open for passive use such as walking or jogging. Playgrounds, tennis courts and basketball courts are closed, and athletic fields are closed to all group activities.

Many of these restrictions fall hardest on the children. Those complying with the guidelines can be seen around town walking at safe distances from each other.  Unfortunately, too many others have been seen gathering on foot or on bikes without regard to the safe distancing requirements.  Children are not immune and the more coronavirus cases they transmit from household to household, the longer these onerous restrictions will need to persist.

As Mayor, I want to thank and congratulate everyone who has been careful to follow the social distancing and stay-at-home guidelines which are so important to protect our community. The faster we can control this pandemic, the faster we can reduce these painful restrictions.  

Please continue to be careful and stay healthy.

Michael Kelly

Chatham Township Mayor