Officials in Middlesex County are addressing concerns about the spread of coronavirus to the U.S.
The South Brunswick Office of Emergency Management (OEM) held a briefing on preparation and response to the coronavirus on March 2.
More than two dozen stakeholders representing schools, EMS, fire, health, elected officials and township department heads reviewed the current spread of the coronavirus.
The Middlesex County Health Department provided an updated assessment of the virus and guidelines for limiting any spread. OEM Director Chief Raymond Hayducka, who is the township chief of police, said the goal of the meeting was to provide accurate information as to what was going on with the virus and assess response procedures.
“Public health is a top priority and making sure we have accurate information going out to the public is key,” Hayducka said in the statement. “Bringing all our partners together to discuss plans and response today will help us face any challenges if the virus impacts our community.”
During the meeting, representatives reviewed their individual organizations’ plans and needs. OEM officials provided a community message that was developed highlighting resources and contact numbers for the public.
The state has established a 24-hour hotline at 1-800-222-1222 for people with questions about coronavirus. The hotline is staffed by trained healthcare professionals.
South Brunswick OEM will utilize the Nixle alert system to provide timely information on any details county or state health officials deem necessary for the community. Sign up at local.nixle.com/register.
South Brunswick OEM will hold additional meeting as necessary to address issues and concerns.
Scott Feder, superintendent of the South Brunswick Public School District, issued a statement on March 3 stating school officials met with the South Brunswick OEM to discuss actions that will be taken, if need be.
He said current measures to help avoid the spread of germs include:
● All schools are provided with an EPA registered Disinfectant to effectively treat all touchpoints in all areas of the building.
● All schools are provided with a hydrogen peroxide-based all surface cleaner to effectively clean light to heavily soiled and greasy surfaces.
● Evening custodial staff at each building clean touchpoints throughout the building and then apply disinfectant to eliminate cross-contamination from treated surfaces.
● Custodial staff maintains an open line of communication with the school nurse to identify areas of the building that require enhanced cleaning based on the number of staff and students that have reported illness.
● All HVAC units district-wide that require air filters are routinely changed and serviced per an established Preventative Maintenance Schedule.
● Hand soap is checked and stocked for staff and students’ use each day and readily available at each sink throughout the district.
● Hand sanitizer is checked and stocked in designated areas throughout the district where there is not as sink readily available.
● GPS air cleaners have been installed in HVAC equipment throughout the school district that are self-cleaning, bi-polar ionization systems. This system cleans the outside air before moving through the air filter.
● Restrooms are cleaned and disinfected each day using state of the art no-touch cleaning
● Microfiber cleaning cloths are color-coded and used for custodial cleaning to eliminate cross-contamination and produce effective cleaning results.
● All buses in transportation are cleaned and disinfected on a daily basis utilizing the same
effective cleaning chemicals used in our schools.
Brian Zychowski, superintendent of the North Brunswick Public School District, released a statement saying “with the media frenzy and misinformation regarding the coronavirus, it is imperative to keep the lines of communication ongoing in an effort to release accurate and up-to-date guidance that all families can access and utilize.
“The district’s primary responsibility is the safety and security of our students and staff.
Therefore, I wanted to assure you that in addition to working with our local township
officials, we are utilizing all available channels of resources, including the state, county
Boards of Health, the OEM, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as state and federal published guidelines,” he said.
He said the district is implementing the following recommended protocols:
● Adhere to rigorous cleaning guidelines by wiping door knobs, desks and surface areas
● Continue to monitor student and staff attendance
● Children should remain home if they are ill. Families should communicate directly with
the school nurse to report any relevant symptoms and/or pertinent information
● As being recommended by many organizations, the Board of Education will review all
approvals regarding student travel including international, interstate and local trips
● As with past viral threats, such as the H1N1, there have been inquiries to how the district
may prevent student learning loss during an extended school closure. Although the New
Jersey Department of Education does not recognize the option of remote instruction as a
“school day,” the district has begun discussions about leveraging technology to assist
students, especially graduating seniors
“We will continue to monitor the latest updates as further details become available on this
viral outbreak. Please know that we will use an abundance of caution and never
compromise the health and safety of our students and staff,” Zychowski said in the statement.
North Brunswick Township officials have met with representatives of the Middlesex County Health Department, who emphasized basic precautions such as washing hands, staying home if sick, and limiting contact with anyone who is ill.
“Public health is our main concern at this time and making sure we have accurate information going out to our residents is of utmost importance,” Mayor Francis M. Womack said in a statement.
Middlesex County has convened meetings with local partners, including area hospitals, to discuss plans and preparations pertaining to the spread of COVID-19 before the virus spreads to the state and/or the county, according to information provided by the Middlesex County Office of Communication.
On March 3, county officials held a meeting with New Jersey State Senator Joseph F. Vitale, the Middlesex County Health and Safety office, Middlesex County College, Middlesex County Vocational Technical Schools, the Executive County Superintendent, and local healthcare partners, including representatives from Hackensack Meridian Health, RWJBarnabas Health, Saint Peter’s Healthcare System and Penn Medicine Princeton Health.
The Middlesex County Department of Public Safety & Health has been addressing the COVID-19 situation since it emerged and began to spread. Over the past month, the Middlesex County Department of Public Safety & Health’s Offices of Health Services and Emergency Management and Preparedness have been working jointly with the county’s 25 municipalities in ensuring that all policies, procedures and protocols have been reviewed and modified if necessary. The offices have been working cooperatively with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, federal, state, county, hospital, and educational partners in the exchange and dissemination of information which include daily updates, according to the statement.
“While COVID-19 has not yet been identified in New Jersey, we should all put into practice very basic precautions – the things we should be doing anyway this time of year to prevent the spread of the flu and colds. The www.cdc.gov website has excellent recommendations for the public, businesses and other interest groups to follow whether a disease is present in their community or not. These recommendations include things like frequent hand washing, the regular cleaning of high touch surfaces, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home from work when sick. I know it’s hard for parents to take off of work when our kids get sick, but let’s all be vigilant together. In doing so we will not only help to reduce the possible spread of COVID-19 but the flu and other illnesses too,” Vitale said in the statement.
At Saint Peter’s University Hospital, members are reviewing preparedness for the COVID-19 on a daily basis. As a women and children’s hospital with more than 5,000 births, they are prepared to care for laboring women who potentially may be a person under investigation for COVID-19. They have staged induction suites to be negative pressure as well as the operating rooms in that area so that if a laboring woman requires a C-section or any type of general surgery, it can be performed in that space. They will also be restricting visitors for any patient who has tested positive. For the well-being of patients, the hospital will provide them with iPads so that visitation with family members and friends can happen remotely, Linda Carroll, vice president of Patient Care Services and chief nursing officer at Saint Peter’s Healthcare System, said in the statement.
Hackensack Meridian Health continues to educate and train its care team and follow the protocols established by the CDC, M. Todd Way, regional president, Hackensack Meridian Health Central Market, said in the statement.
RWJBarnabas is focused on planning, training and exercising by looking at its plans and updating them accordingly, reemphasizing training and competency within employees, and exercising its plans, Louis A. Sasso, corporate director of emergency management at RWJBarnabas Health, said in the statement.
Penn Medicine Princeton Health is prepared to care for any patients who are suspected of having or are diagnosed with COVID-19. The staff is trained in caring for patients with infectious diseases and in infection control practices that would prevent the spread of the virus. The hospital is following CDC guidelines to screen patients to identify possible exposure to the virus, Steven Bergmann, chair of the Department of Medicine and senior vice president for Medical Affairs, said in the statement.
The best possible method of avoiding exposure or infection to the virus is to avoid contact with sick or symptomatic individuals; wash hands completely (minimum of 20 seconds) with soap and water (or a 60% alcohol content or alcohol wipes/gel); and sanitize all surfaces regularly, according to information provided by the Human Services Advisory Council.
Health officials have asked the public to not go to the hospital if they have no symptoms. Instead, call the hotline at 1-800-222-1222 to reach the Middlesex County Department of Health.