The recent outbreak of COVID-19 is having a trickle down, chain reaction effect on all aspects of life.
Chief Robert Robinson of the North Brunswick First Aid and Rescue Squad said first responders may wear extra gowns, masks and gloves when responding – but they will respond.
“We are always preparing for cases such as this and the last few weeks we have taken extra precautions; we are [decontaminating] our building and our ambulances much more frequently than we normally would. We have some specialized equipment that helps us facilitate this,” said Robinson, who noted the volunteers are well-trained and meet daily to discuss coronavirus updates.
He did note that family members of a patient are not allowed in an ambulance unless necessary, which also cuts down on foot traffic in the hospital.
“We want to assure people that when you call 911 we’ll come out there and we’ll make sure you’re OK and we’ll get you the help you need,” he said.
Many police departments have changed their policies and procedures related to dealing with the public during this time. When possible, officers may keep a safe distance and avoid shaking hands.
Officers may request to speak to an individual outside of a residence. In some cases, an officer may make contact via telephone to complete a police report.
When residents speak with officers at police headquarters, the conversation may take place through a window.
In some cases, dispatchers may screen callers for signs of respiratory illness so first responders can take the proper precautions when responding.
However, anyone experiencing signs of a respiratory illness (fever, cough, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath) should call 911 and identify those symptoms to the dispatcher so the proper precautions can be taken when responding.
The South Brunswick Police Department has enhanced its police capabilities by expanding its outreach efforts. The new program 911eye allows callers to securely share live videos, photos and their location with the police department, thereby expanding the number of incidents that are appropriately attended to without the risk of an in-person response.
The new system will allow dispatchers to send a link to any individual’s smartphone, allowing for the live video to be viewed.
He said officers are holding up well, but there has been a significant decrease in the amount of activity.
“Our top concern is life safety calls. We have scaled back proactive traffic enforcement details to limit officers’ exposure. We are limiting physical arrests to only the most serious offenses, in all other cases we will issue a summons,” Hayducka said.
“We are making sure our officers have all the proper equipment and have up-to-date information about what is going on. There are jobs the officers are doing today that wasn’t even part of their work a week ago, like delivering food to a family. We are all adjusting to the ever-changing situation,” he said.
Concerns about mental health
With new concepts such as social distancing, quarantine and shelter in place, citizens are at risk for anxiety, depression and extreme levels of stress as the number of positive COVID-19 cases and potential associated deaths rise.
“This is a normal response to a public health crisis like this. Although there are common stressors to us all, the pandemic affects each of us differently. People without a history (of a mental health condition) may feel increased stress and anxiety. Those individuals who live with a mental health condition may experience increased symptoms with the increased stressors,” said Maggie Luo, assistant director of NAMI NJ (National Alliance on Mental Illness), which is headquartered in North Brunswick.
While social distancing is a necessary measure of precaution, social distancing does not need to mean social isolation, Luo said.
“In times like this, it is even more important to reach out to our support network – family, friends, colleagues, religious groups, etc – via phone calls, social media and virtual conferencing platforms. People who are dealing with a mental health condition are encouraged to reach out to their mental health providers and explore telehealth options,” she said.
The NAMI Family Support Group is a 60-minute support group for adult friends and family members, age 18 and older, of people with mental health conditions. Meetings will be at noon on Tuesdays and 7 p.m. on Wednesdays.
The NAMI Connection Recovery Support Group is a 60-minute support group for adults, age 18 and older, with a mental health condition. Meetings will be at noon and 7 p.m. on Wednesdays.
Meetings begin the week of March 23. Attendance is limited to 12 people per meeting, first come, first served. If demand is high, there could be more sessions added.
“Online meetings are an effective and timely way to reduce social isolation and increase support when in-person meetings are not available. Although online support has its own challenges, NAMI organizations across the country and NAMI NJ are striving to continue serving families affected by mental illness in creative ways,” Luo said.
“The groups will be high fidelity NAMI support groups, each led by two certified facilitators, using the signature programs’ agenda, group guidelines, principles of support and stages of emotional response. We put a lot of thought into the privacy and safety of our members and the community. Our priority is to continue to provide education and support to individuals and families during this health crisis,” Luo said.
Outside of meetings, there are activities residents can partake in when they are home, especially if they are alone.
“If someone is home alone, reach out to others. Just because you are alone in your home does not mean you are alone in life. Call friends, FaceTime family members. We are encouraging neighbors to check in on each other.
“You can find online communities through Facebook, or online support groups. NAMI NJ has started online support groups and there are a number of online resources that provide support,” Luo said.
Structure and routine may be helpful for people with mental health vulnerabilities, especially during times of uncertainty, Luo said.
“We encourage you to maintain a regular routine with the work hours that are usually worked, including keeping up with morning rituals. Dressing in regular work attire and taking regular breaks, including lunch time, may also be helpful,” she said.
However, when feelings of anxiety or depression do arise, NAMI National suggests remembering that knowledge is power.
“Understanding the factors that affect a person’s immune response to COVID-19 will matter as much as, or more than, understanding the virus. Poor lung health caused by smoking, lack of adequate health care, suppressed immune systems, and/or populations particularly susceptible to infectious diseases, such as the elderly, have been particularly affected by COVID-19,” she said.
“Don’t accept everything you read or hear. Look beyond rhetoric and arm yourself with information. The CDC provides information and frequent updates on the COVID-19’s spread, severity, risk assessment, etc. To subscribe to the CDC’s email and text message service, visit CDC Subscription Service,” Luo said.
She also said people should get their emotional support system in place.
“Maintain familiar routines in daily life as much as possible; take care of your basic needs and employ helpful coping strategies: rest during work or between shifts, eat healthy food and engage in physical activity.
“Stay connected with others and maintain your social networks. Have the emails and phone numbers of close friends and family at your fingertips. Stay connected via email, social media, video conference and telephone. Participate in a free online support group. …
“Contact the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990 that provides 24/7, 365-day-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters.
“Have the number of several Warmlines (emotional support hotlines) at your fingertips. Call the NAMI HelpLine at 800-950-NAMI (6264) Monday through Friday, between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. for mental health resources,” she said.
In addition, for anyone who is worried about access to prescribed medications, patients can ask their health care provider for 90-day supplies instead of a 60- or 30-day supply, Luo said. If this is not possible, refill medications as soon as a refill is allowed.
“Even in times like these, you are never alone,” NAMI Executive Director Meredith Blount said.
In addition, Gov. Phil Murphy, the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, the New Jersey Department of Health, and the United Ways of New Jersey announced that NJ 211 has been activated to help handle COVID-19 related calls from New Jersey residents.
Residents can also text NJCOVID to 898-211 to receive text information and stay informed. To receive live text assistance, residents can text their zip code to 898-211.
These enhancements to 211 will supplement, rather than replace, the existing COVID-19 hotline operated by the New Jersey Poison Control Center.
Additionally, the Department of Health has a COVID-19 website with resources including CDC updates, guidance for schools, colleges, businesses, long-term care facilities, health care professionals and public health professionals. The website is available at nj.gov/health/coronavirus
Local health departments, health care providers and medical facility staff should continue to contact the Communicable Disease Service at the New Jersey Department of Health with COVID-19 questions.
Morgan Thompson, who has been living in long-term recovery for more than 10 years, is the co-chair of the New Jersey Coalition for Addiction Recovery Support (NJ-CARS), which helps make recovery support resources more available throughout the state.
“As of today, we are still seeing more overdose deaths in the United States than COVID-19 deaths anywhere in the world, including China. That could obviously change as this pandemic exponentially grows. But overdose risk remains a significant and comparable threat. People with substance use disorders are at a heightened risk of overdose death if they contract COVID-19, due to respiratory impairment,” she said.
That being said, recovery is a relational process for most people.
“Addiction is a very isolating condition and people in all stages of recovery rely on daily contact with others in recovery to talk about their challenges, including drug cravings and other withdrawal symptoms.
“This is especially critical for people in the earliest stages of recovery. So as more and more support groups in the community close in response to (needed) social distancing measures, as well as treatment and recovery programs, people lose that daily contact and their recovery can be jeopardized,” she said.
Thompson said the biggest step those in recovery can take to avoid any temptations is to stay connected.
“There are resources available at any time of the day or night where people in recovery can connect with peers who can support them. In addition to 12-step programs, SMART Recovery, All Recovery meetings, and other mutual aid groups that are moving to online and phone-based platforms as in-person meetings close, people in recovery can connect with a peer recovery specialist who will provide individual support and reach out regularly to check on you.
“That kind of support and accountability can make all the difference. People can find a recovery community center in their local area, which can connect them with a reputable peer recovery specialist at no cost; these services are provided by volunteers and/or are grant funded in New Jersey,” she said.
She said it is also important to keep in mind that the temptation cannot necessarily be avoided.
“Especially early in recovery, and during times of stress at any stage of recovery, cravings are expected and normal. Being able to allow for them and planning resources to cope when they come up are the best strategy,” she said.
People in recovery are all unique and have individualized needs, she said.
“In general, we know structure helps, peer support helps and exercise and meditation-like activities can significantly reduce cravings. By brainstorming and exploring your personal needs and interests, a peer recovery specialist can work with you to develop a recovery plan that will help you best use your time right now,” Thompson said.
Online and telephone-based meetings have been around for decades and are especially important now during the coronavirus outbreak.
“For some, especially folks in rural communities, this is their primary method of recovery support. However, this type of support works better for some than for others. Certainly, it is better than no support at all, but it may not replace the camaraderie and connection people in recovery find at in-person recovery events and meetings.
“Still, an advantage of online and phone-based support is that it is available constantly, regardless of where you are, so when a craving does strike, you can just jump into an online meeting or reach out to a peer helpline right away,” she said.
Thompson herself began using online meetings eight years ago when she was studying abroad in Italy.
“There weren’t as many meetings available as I was used to, and I was in a new and challenging situation so I needed support more than ever. Online meetings were not just a convenient resource; I literally think they saved my recovery at that time.
“I was even able to connect with some of the people from the online meetings, individually still online, and forged some great friendships and connections that helped me to get through the challenges I was facing,” she said.
Locally, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office simultaneously administered two ongoing state-funded Operation Helping Hand (OHH) grants: Middlesex County’s version of OHH, called Blue Cares, offers a 24-hour, 7 days a week hotline (732-596-4199), staffed by approximately 30 trained peer recovery coaches; and an app, which can be accessed by searching “Blue Cares” on a cell phone’s App Store for Apple devices and the Google Play Store for Android devices. This app will allow users to access information and resources regarding treatment. The app will also allow the user to participate in a live chat with a peer recovery coach 24/7.
The African American community
African Americans, like many minority communities, are likely to experience socioeconomic disparities such as exclusion from health, educational, social and economic resources, which may contribute to worse mental health outcomes.
“African Americans do have a higher incidence of underlying health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. Over 40% of African Americans have high blood pressure, among the highest rates in the world, according to the American Heart Association. By comparison, about a third of white Americans have high blood pressure. Similarly, African Americans tend to have higher rates of diabetes,” said Lisa Powell, program coordinator for AACT-NOW, African American Community Together NOW.
This makes the group more susceptible to COVID-19 because they are more likely to be exposed to the virus, they experience underlying health conditions and they have less access to medical care, according to an article published in “Science News.”
“Millions of people of people in the U.S. are affected by mental illness each year and it is important to measure how common mental illness is so we can understand its physical, social and financial impact — and so we can show that no one is alone,” Powell said. “These numbers are also powerful tools for raising public awareness, stigma-busting and advocating for better health care: 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness, 1 in 25 U.S. adults experience serious serious mental illness, and 17% of youth (6-17 years) experience a mental health disorder.”
In the African American community, the effects of mental illness are not so much governed by any biological defect in DNA but rather the artificial, but very real, barriers to treatment that unfairly challenge their ability to manage the disease of mental illness as individuals and a community, Powell said.
“The legacy of slavery, health care inequities, myths and assumptions held by a highly racialized America about people of color continues to pose a major challenge in the group’s ability to mitigate the effects of the disease,” Powell said.
For example, the symptoms of bipolar disorder in Black America are not experienced differently than a White America, Powell said.
“But the manic/depressive episode [in whites] will most likely be of shorter duration than the black persons due to their increased access to health care, higher level treatment interventions and higher socioeconomic states, all of which influence duration, which leads to better outcomes,” Powell said. “In simple terms, it is not the disease of mental illness that has any more or less of a negative effect on African Americans over other demographics, it’s about having access to the tools that help to manage the symptoms that lead to better outcomes and recovery – recovery that is possible no matter how as human beings we are defined socially, economically or demographically.”
Therefore, AACT-NOW provides mental health support groups throughout New Jersey, and Family to Family classes for families of those with mental illness. Also available is the Young Adult Society, a social group for young adults ages 21-35 with mental health concerns.
“As one of the four NAMI [National Alliance on Mental Illness] New Jersey multicultural outreach programs, AACT-NOW is here for families who are affected by mental illness. NAMI-NJ offers free referral service and help for families in navigating the mental health system. During the pandemic, AACT-NOW offers free online support groups for families affected by mental illness, phone support/referral, and virtual social support for young adults with lived experience of mental health issues. NAMI NJ’s webinar series and online signature program presentations are also freely available for all communities across the state and beyond.”
Aside from protecting physical and mental health, AACT-NOW also works on eliminating the stigma surrounding mental illness in the African American community.
“For some, it feels that there is more of a stigma in the African American community because society discriminates against African Americans, so any other issues are magnified. Different reasons prevent African Americans from seeking treatment and receiving quality care. In the African American community, many people misunderstand what a mental health condition is and don’t talk about this topic. This lack of knowledge leads many to believe that a mental health condition is a personal weakness or some sort of punishment from God. African Americans may be reluctant to discuss mental health issues and seek treatment because of the shame and stigma associated with such conditions,” Powell said.
“In the African American community, family, community and spiritual beliefs tend to be great sources of strength and support. Most African Americans rely on faith, family and social communities for emotional support rather than turning to health care professionals, even though medical or therapeutic treatment may be necessary. Faith and spirituality can help in the recovery process but should not be the only option you pursue. If spirituality is an important part of one’s life, spiritual practices can be a strong part of a treatment plan, spiritual leaders and faith communities can provide support and reduce isolation. Relying on family, community and faith for support is important, but seeking professional help is imperative.
“This can be combated by showing compassion and understanding. Contacting others, being empathetic and lending an ear is needed now more than ever,” Powell said.
For more information and resources visit, www.naminj.org/covid19.
Medical marijuana patients
There are 73,000 patients in New Jersey’s medicinal cannabis program, which represents only a small fraction of the number of people in New Jersey who could benefit from medical marijuana, according to Anne Davis, the former executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and part of the Cannabis Law Committee of the NJ Bar Association.
Patients who rely on the use of medical marijuana have been affected by COVID-19 in several ways.
As with other products, there has been panic buying of medical marijuana. This has led to long lines at the alternative treatment centers (ATC) and certain strains are either not available at all, or only available in reduced amounts.
“Supply cannot keep up with increasing demand,” Davis said.
There are seven ATCs currently dispensing medical marijuana in New Jersey: Greenleaf Compassion Center of Montclair, Compassionate Care Foundation of Egg Harbor, Garden State Dispensary of Woodbridge and Union Township, Breakwater Alternative Treatment Center of Cranbury, Curaleaf NJ Inc. in Bellmawr, Harmony Dispensary in Secaucus and Rise in Paterson.
The New Jersey Department of Health now allows ATCs to serve patients curbside in their vehicles. The DOH also reduced all caregiver registration fees to $20. Previously, all dispensing had to occur within an ATC and the registration fee for caregivers was $100, unless caregivers qualified for the standard reduced fee, Davis said.
The waivers also remove the requirement for ATCs to conduct in-person consultations for new patients, unless requested. Consultations can be done over the phone instead of in-person.
“The majority of New Jersey’s 9 million residents could benefit from marijuana therapy at some time in their lives, when you consider all of marijuana’s therapeutic uses. If you live in the Garden State, you have a one in three chance of having a cancer diagnosis at some time in your life. Chronic pain affects about one in three. The state is finally beginning to recognize mental and emotional conditions that qualify for marijuana therapy—and PTSD and anxiety are just the tip of the iceberg. We all die, and marijuana improves the quality of life of the dying like no other drug,” Davis said.
Patients who cannot get their medicine either suffer needlessly, or risk arrest and imprisonment by obtaining their medicine from the Black Market, Davis said.
“Even if medicine is obtained from the Black Market, there is no guarantee that particular strains that are most effective for the patients’ conditions are available, or that the cannabinoid content is known and consistently available, or that the marijuana was grown organically and is free of pesticides, molds, heavy metals, etc. Patients can illegally grow it themselves, but there are Draconian penalties associated with this, including a decade or more in prison and forfeiture of property. Besides, it takes several months to produce a crop and usually requires special equipment and know-how to produce medical grade marijuana,” Davis said.
In addition, seeking out medicine from the Black Market violates social distancing mandates from the government, and places vulnerable patients at greater risk, Davis said.
“Home cultivation for patients is a solution that the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey endorses. Gardening itself is therapeutic. To grow a therapeutic herb is to get twice the bang for your buck. To produce your own medicine, and titrate it to control your own symptoms, under medical supervision, is a wonderful advance in American health care. It minimizes the pharmaceutical industry and the insurance industry from the health care picture, along with their huge profits. Home cultivation is an important part of health care reform. But, sad irony, the Garden State does not permit it,” Davis said.
Davis said the legislature should immediately amend the Compassionate Use Act to allow medical cannabis patients to possess and grow up to six cannabis plants, just as the New Jersey Senate voted they should be allowed to do in the Compassionate Use bill, on Feb. 23, 2009, by a vote of 22-16.
The Attorney General should also enact a moratorium on arrests of patients growing their own essential medicine and the legislature should at least decriminalize it in emergency legislation, she said. Patients could get clones, plants or seeds from ATCs and they are already registered with the department for verification. There can be a small fee each plant and even a tag to be placed on the plant so law enforcement can easily tell which gardens are legal, she said.
“This is essential access,” Davis said.
For more information, www.nj.gov/health/news/2020/approved/20200323a.shtml, www.nj.gov/health/news/2020/approved/20200116a.shtml or www.letpatientsgrownj.com/forum
NJ Sharing Network, the non-profit, federally designated organ procurement organization responsible for the recovery of organs and tissue in the state, will observe National Donate Life Month virtually throughout April to heed social distancing rules due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Celebrated in April each year, National Donate Life Month usually features an entire month of local, regional and national activities that encourage Americans to register as organ and tissue donors and to celebrate those who have saved lives through the gift of donation, according to information provided by NJ Sharing Network. While clinical team members continue their around-the-clock efforts to focus on saving and enhancing lives, the organization has developed creative ways to promote its mission virtually in online efforts, according to the statement.
NJ Sharing Network will be introducing a host of daily activities through its social media channels, on its website and through targeted emails and mailings to its wide circle of supporters. The organization will be providing social media tools that supporters can use, such as encouraging them to change their Facebook cover photo to a Donate Life Month graphic or add a Donate Life Month frame to their profile picture. Supporters will be asked to share their stories about how organ and tissue donation has improved their lives or why they registered as organ donors. In addition, NJ Sharing Network will be encouraging supporters to incorporate Donate Life Month’s blue and green colors outside of their homes, including creative chalk art on sidewalks and driveways and window decoration and lights, according to the statement.
“Donate Life Month has always been a time to rally around the importance of organ and tissue donation, which we have traditionally done through community events and activities. Although we will not be able to do in-person activities this year, our team of dedicated staff and volunteers are driven to spread our life-saving message using our online platforms,” Joe Roth, president and CEO of NJ Sharing Network, said in the statement.
In 2019, 1,400 donors gave the gift of life and the number of organ donors surpassed 200 for the first time in New Jersey – 206 individuals saved lives through donation, resulting in 601 organs transplanted, according to the statement. An additional 1,139 donors helped heal and enhance the quality of life of those in need of tissue and eye transplants, while 173 individuals made the decision to give life as living kidney donors, according to the statement.
There are nearly 4,000 New Jersey residents awaiting a life-saving transplant, according to the statement. Every day, approximately three people are added to the New Jersey waiting list, and one person dies every three days while waiting for a transplant. One organ donor can save eight lives and one tissue donor can restore health to over 75 people, according to the statement.
For more information, visit NJSharingNetwork.org.
Patients with Parkinson’s disease
Mengo’s husband Peter was diagnosed in April 2017 with PD. His symptoms started out as slight hand tremors, but gradually other symptoms were becoming more noticeable, she said. The disease affected his gait, created stiffness and his daily tasks became an effort.
Mengo said her husband was referred to a neurologist who is a movement disorder specialist for Parkinson’s.
While the family was waiting for Peter’s confirmed diagnosis, Ginny Scaduto, who is Peter’s sister, was approached by the CEO of The Parkinson Alliance in Kingston – who is a member of Retro – who asked if she knew anyone who might have Parkinson’s, and informed her about a program called Rock Steady Boxing located in Illinois.
The COVID-19 pandemic makes it dangerous for New Jersey residents to leave their homes. Through everyone is advised to “stay safe, stay home,” for victims of domestic violence, home is the most dangerous place of all, according to information provided by Women Aware of New Brunswick.
“Many adults cannot go to work. Children are not in school. Stores, malls, libraries, gyms, restaurants are closed. Social distancing discourages visits with extended family or friends. Fear, anxiety, frustration and uncertainty are running high. Families are together day and night. In a domestic violence situation, this is the perfect storm to trigger an escalation in abuse,” Susan Dyckman said in a prepared statement.
In an ordinary year, domestic violence agencies in New Jersey serve more than 18,000 victims of abuse, she said. As the state-designated lead domestic violence agency for Middlesex County, Women Aware supports 1 out of every 8 of those victims.
“In these unprecedented times, we are seeing an alarming increase in domestic violence. We see it in the types of calls our hotline workers are receiving and in victims’ desperate need for emergency shelter. Lives are in danger,” Dyckman said in the statement.
For 40 years, Women Aware has been providing comprehensive services for victims of domestic violence and their children. It operated the only 24-hour domestic violence emergency shelter in the second largest county in the state. It continually operates at full capacity, and despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, remains fully operational and in compliance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New Jersey Department of Health guidelines regarding the health and safety of clients and staff.
Women Aware is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The hotline, 732-249-4504 (toll-free 833-249-4504), provides safety planning, crisis intervention and resources.
The on-site staff speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Urdu, Hindi, German and Italian. Hundreds of other languages can be translated in the moment.
If it is too dangerous for a victim to reach out directly, a trusted family member or friend can call the hotline.
“We need to look out for each other during this crisis. Victims need to know they are not alone,” Dyckman said. “We are here. We can help.”
Concerns about suicide
There have been two documented suicides linked to the virus, according to Carol Womack of North Brunswick, a licensed clinical social worker: a man in India took his life in an attempt to protect his family from the virus, and a student in Saudi Arabia took his life after he was diagnosed and placed in isolation.
“I do have concerns that imposed isolation will increase anxiety and make it easier for people to withdraw from friends and family,” said Womack, head of the North Brunswick Suicide Prevention Task Force.
“People with obsessive compulsive disorder are also bombarded with the information that they need to increase their handwashing. We need to remind people it is important to check more often on their loved ones with histories of mental illness and remind people that as of now it’s still OK to go for walks and get fresh air as long as they keep a safe distance from others.
“There is also a concern that services are limited as therapists and others also need to stay home and may only be able to connect with their clients by phone or computer and not everyone can afford or have access to these items. Refilling medications can also be an issue due to rules imposed by insurance companies,” she said.
Concerns about physical health
Finally, foam roll tight fascia to improve overall flexibility. Improving the way you move can improve the way you feel, he said.
The full post is available at www.backfixer1.com/back-pain-movement-reason-many-us-hurt-three-things-can-now-get-relief/
Selover Funeral Home in North Brunswick has implemented the following policies:
The number of guests admitted into the building is limited to 50 individuals at one time, including the immediate family of the deceased.
Guests will be asked to sign upon entry to and exit from the building with their name, address and either a phone number or an email address in case they must be notified by the authorities at a later time.
The number of chairs in the funeral home will be limited and placed at a distance to promote social distancing and encourage guests to limit their time in the funeral home.
Hand sanitizer will be provided when available due to limited supplies.
Surfaces will be disinfected as required.
To accommodate students who are home from school, Chartwells Food Service has been distributing meals at the parks, Deerbrook and schools in North Brunswick from 9:30 a.m. to noon daily.
The grab-and-go breakfast and lunch meals are distributed in a drive-up setting, serving about 200 students per day, according to Superintendent of Schools Brian Zychowski.
“In the current state of the country, it is important that all children have access to a meal. As parents are temporarily laid off, the household financial situation may change and more children will need assistance,” Zychowski said.
When news broke of coronavirus coming to the United States, residents across the country rushed to supermarkets to stock up on water, milk, bread, toilet paper and canned/boxed goods.
In order to allow more time for associates to unload deliveries, stock shelves and better serve customers throughout the day, Stop & Shop as a company, for example, adjusted its hours of operation to 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. at most stores beginning on March 16.
Effective on March 19, Stop & Shop created hours specifically geared to accommodate customers age 60 and older, who are at greater risk of contracting the virus. Stop & Shop stores will open from 6-7:30 a.m. only for customers over the age of 60 who the CDC and local health officials say are most vulnerable.
“Stop & Shop is making the decision to allow community members in this age category to shop in a less crowded environment, which better enables social distancing. Although Stop & Shop will not be requesting ID for entry, they request that we all respect the purpose of the early opening – and do the right thing for our older neighbors. Stop & Shop will reserve the right to ask customers to leave if they are not a member of this age group.
“Stop & Shop is continuing to maintain high levels of hygiene and sanitation in its stores and online operations. We are also taking additional measures during this time, which include wiping down checkout areas, including the belts and pin pads with disinfectant even more frequently. We will continue to follow guidance from the CDC to help keep our customers and associates safe,” a statement from the company read.
According to Stefanie Shuman, external communications manager for Stop & Shop, the company has seen increased sales on items such as hand sanitizers, disinfecting wipes, Lysol spray, bleach, antibacterial soap and other cleaning products.
“Customers are also stocking up on paper goods and non-perishable items like rice, canned soups, canned vegetables and pasta sauce. These sales trends are similar across all states in which Stop & Shop operates,” she said in an interview.
Some health and beauty care products, as well as cleaning products – including Purell hand sanitizer and Lysol disinfecting wipes – are limited in supply, she said.
“At this time, fixed amounts of those products are being distributed to U.S. retailers. As soon as quantities become available to Stop & Shop, we work quickly to re-stock our shelves and make them available to our customers,” she said. “We are also working swiftly to identify similar, alternative products and brands that may be available in the marketplace to ensure our customers have access to the items for which they are looking.”
Dr. Will Lopez, a councilman in North Brunswick, urged everyone to be courteous to one another while shopping.
“When you go shopping, get what you need and think about our neighbors … there will be enough for everyone if we just think about each other,” he said.
More Middlesex County residents are in need of food assistance than expected. With schools closed, senior centers closed and many businesses closing or reducing hours, children and seniors are without meals and working families are without paychecks and do not have funds to stock up on supplies, according to information provided by Jennifer Apostol, Middlesex County Improvement Authority senior project manager, and director of MCFOODS (Middlesex County Food Organization and Outreach Distribution Services).
“MCFOODS is doing our best to provide extra supplies to our partners, but we need your help. Any and all food donations are welcome – our staff is still available to pick up donations and we are also accepting donations at our warehouse on weekday mornings.
“Donations can be dropped off at 28 Kennedy Blvd., Suite 850, East Brunswick (side door toward the back or bay door around the back of the building) between 6 a.m. and noon. Donations can be dropped with no physical contact and at a safe distance,” she said.
Through a partnership with Feeding Middlesex County, MCFOODS is also buying supplies from local warehouses and distributors. Monetary donations at www.feedingmiddlesexcounty.org/ will allow MCFOODS to keep shelves stocked, Apostol said.
“MCFOODS is taking every precaution for our staff and volunteers to keep a safe working distance and clean work surfaces. Our partner pantries are still open and distributing to residents in need, many taking precautions like providing drive up service or limiting the number of guests in at any given time. We are all committed to doing what we can to remain safe, healthy and provide much needed food and supplies to our residents,” she said.
In South Brunswick, representatives of the South Brunswick Office of Emergency Management met with representatives of the South Brunswick Food Pantry to develop a plan for acquiring and maintaining stocks of food for those in need.
The South Brunswick Police Department received food donations at police headquarters on March 20. In addition, the South Brunswick Food Pantry is accepting gift cards to Stop & Shop and ShopRite, as well as monetary donations.
“The Food Bank has been doing an amazing job of managing the needs of our community, and has really stepped up to be sure our food stock doesn’t fall short. We have already received several generous donations and I would like to thank those members of our community who stepped up in this difficult time to make sure all our community members are well cared for and have their needs met. The strength and character of our community really shows when we band together to help those in need,” Mayor Charles Carley said in a prepared statement.
The North Brunswick Food Bank has also remained open, though residents are asked to drive to the back bay of the municipal building and not go inside.
B2 Bistro + Bar locations in New Jersey and Pennsylvania have been closed since 8 p.m. on March 16 in Red Bank, Point Pleasant Beach, North Brunswick and West Reading, Pa.
“We have opted against doing any takeout or delivery service at this time. We have donated to our local churches and food banks all of our perishable food items.
“We have asked all salaried members of our team to take this mandated closing period to focus on our facilities. We will be deep cleaning, sanitizing, completing do-it-yourself maintenance projects and fine-tuning every aspect of our operations.
“We will also be preparing our new spring menu offerings as well as finalizing our business plan for summer 2020. We have also asked our teams to focus on taking care of their families, their neighbors and themselves,” said Stephen G. Valentine, managing partner for B2 Bistro + Bar.
Valentine said the purchase of gift cards for future use “is a great idea” to help businesses survive.
“We are offering our holiday season promotion during these difficult times: buy a $100 gift card and receive a $20 bonus gift certificate. All purchases are available on our website,” he said.
Unfortunately though, he said, all of B2’s employees and families have been negatively impacted by this global pandemic.
“It is a financial hardship for all of us, for every American and for all citizens of the world. But we believe that we at B2 Bistro + Bar will weather this storm. We will reopen on the other side of this better than ever. We hope and pray that everybody does.
“When this crisis is over, and it will end, I anticipate the restaurant industry will be busier than ever. We are where friends and family gather to break bread, drink wine and celebrate life. And once we beat this virus and get back on our feet we will all have a reason for celebration. Until that time of celebration, we hope all people take all necessary steps to remain as healthy as possible. Care for one another. We are all in this together,” Valentine said.
The New Jersey Bankers Association is confident in the banking system and the resiliency of the economy.
Customers faced with distress should contact their bank if they have concerns or are experiencing a financial hardship due to the health crisis caused by coronavirus. Banks in New Jersey are working with their customers to develop solutions that best meet each individual’s needs.
“Our banks are well positioned to assist our customers during this trying time,” said John E. McWeeney Jr., president and CEO of NJBankers, in a prepared statement.
The industry is providing the following services on a case by case basis, including but not limited to:
• Residential loan forbearance for 90 days
• Short term business lending facilities
• Short term commercial real estate facilities
• Principal and interest deferral for affected businesses for 90 days
• Waiving overdraft, early CD withdrawal, and sweep fees
• Increased cash available at ATM
• Increased lines of credit
• Restaurants and other public accommodations – 90 days principal and interest deferral and additional working capital
• Assisting with SBA disaster relief loans
• Small business grants
• Large philanthropic donations.
Banks are assisting customers with an array of routine options. New Jersey banks offer online banking which offers an abundance of tools customers are encouraged to start using. In addition, New Jersey banks have hundreds of ATMs that are located throughout the state and offer a convenient way to obtain cash, make deposits, transfer funds, etc. Contact your bank if you would like to establish online banking capabilities.
Numerous New Jersey Bank locations have closed their lobby and will meet with customers by appointment only. In order to take precautionary measures while continuing drive through access to protect the health and well-being of customers, employees and communities’ banks urge customers to take advantage of online banking. Banks are very prepared to manage through any disruptions and want to make sure their customers are too. Individuals should contact their bank or visit their bank’s website if they have any questions about banking services.
Pet rescues and shelters
The COVID-19 pandemic is having a profound affect on the North Brunswick Humane Association (NBHA) and the welfare of outdoor animals.
“We are in need of donations as some of our biggest fundraisers such as our annual flea market and rummage sale have been postponed. One of our biggest projects, our Community Cat Program, is at a standstill since the largest spay neuter clinic in the area is temporarily closed. There are almost no available foster homes. Shelters and rescues are not in a position to take in large numbers of animals due to capacity and resource constraints,” said Vincent Sheehan, president of NBHA.
As kitten season approaches, there will be fewer opportunities for adoptions, which means many more homeless cats and kittens this year, Sheehan said.
“The possibility of mass pet surrenders due to economic conditions exists. Our ability to help injured and sick animals in the community will be limited,” he said.
The community can help by doing the following:
- If you have space in your home and you are willing to foster a homeless animal, get in touch with NBHA
- If you find baby kittens on your property, do not handle them for 4 to 6 hours as the mother may still be around. This is especially true if you find one or two babies. Mothers move their litters to different locations on a regular basis.
- If you see a sick or injured animal outside, call NBHA to see if help is available.
NBHA may be able to help with finances, food or supplies before a family surrenders the animal to a shelter.
“Let’s work together to protect the welfare of our pets and community cats while maintaining our own safety through social distancing and close contact avoidance,” Sheehan said.
The South Brunswick Public Library is closed until further notice, but is still serving the community through virtual collections and services via www.sbpl.info
“Our staff can still be reached to answer questions and we can even make it possible for you to get a library card number if you don’t already have one so you can access our online collections. Meanwhile, we continue to develop more virtual services to meet the needs of the community during this challenging time,” said Rosemary Gohd, marketing manager for the library.
The website includes access to e-books, audiobooks, newspapers, magazines, streaming media, and databases from A to Z.
The Children’s Department staff is offering virtual storytime along with games and crafts.
Students can access the Brainfuse database to use MEET for online study groups and collaboration.
“We are doing our best to help the public while encouraging social distancing and flatten the curve of infection,” she said. “Visit our website to find free access to so many fun and learning options.”
Over the course of a week, Lakshmi Durga usually teaches about 50 students at the Heera Art Center in South Brunswick.
During the coronavirus outbreak, she said, all of the students are attending classes online with the exception of about three.
“Art is a good outlet during a time of crisis because students are able to focus more on their interests as they have more time on their plates. It keeps the kids calm and distracted from all the havoc going on around the world. Even parents are encouraging their children to facilitate their time being spent on art,” Durga said.
Although some art studios are delivering supplies to keep children – and even adults – occupied during social distancing, Durga said each of her students has a list of the primary immediate art supplies they need to purchase when they join the class. They will rely on those until they can come back to in-studio classes, she said.
“[The virus] is neither negatively nor positively affecting my business. Due to teaching online classes, it becomes harder to teach more (new) students. However, the students we do have are happily adapting to the situation.
“To maintain the quality of teaching, we limited the number of students online in each session. It is making me put extra hours for the classes to teach the same number of students.
“To adapt to the situation and make it easier for students to understand concepts, we are creating worksheets and making videos. These videos help them to have a similar kind of experience of learning directly from the art center,” she said.
Hotels are experiencing significant drops in demand at properties globally with an uncertain duration.
“We are adjusting global operations accordingly which has meant either reduction in hours or a temporary leave for many of our associates at our properties,” Casey Kennett shared in a message from Marriott International, which has several locations in Middlesex County. “Our associates will keep their health benefits during this difficult period and continue to be eligible for company paid free short-term disability that provides income protection should they get sick. We are working quickly to mitigate the impact to our business while also focusing on assisting our associates, our guests and our owners. While the ultimate impact is difficult to predict at this time given the fluidity of the situation, we remain confident in our long-term prospects.”