(October 2020)   

To Monmouth County Regional Health Commission Communities:

 I hope you all remain well and safe at this reading,

Communicable Diseases
New Jersey and Monmouth County in particular, are experiencing an increase or spike in COVID-19 cases. We were shocked to see a one day NJ case report of 1,280 positives 10/18/2020. The entire State is classified as moderate for COVID-19 activity. These are signs that we are going into the second phase of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Due to an off-campus party, we had a significant community outbreak associated with Monmouth University. We have worked closely with University officials, State Health Department, County Health Department and the Visiting Nursing Association of NJ (our nursing contractor) to help mitigate the large number of cases. The State Health Department was able to supply Monmouth University with 1,000 COVID-9 testing kits in order to test students and staff. We have been working with Monmouth University through the entire process and have been advising them as they return to hybrid instruction. MCRHC’s role onsite was to register students and staff for testing. Monmouth County and the NJDOH supported us with additional case investigators and contact tracers as part of the disease surge.

The REHS’s will be required to receive training on the CommCare communicable disease system by December 31, 2020.
The new COVID-19 State database (CommCare) has been quite challenging as we continue our case investigations and contact tracings. This work has been very complicated and detailed in filling out each 14 page datasheet. In addition, we are still experiencing delays in the reporting of COVID tests from some laboratories. We are working seven days a week on our cases.

 Public Health Emergency
In addition to State mandates, statutes and Commission ordinances, MCRHC serves at the direction of the Governor and any Executive Directive from the Commissioner of Health. The Governor has re-adopted the Public Health Emergency for another month. With indoor dining at 25%, the NJDOH has asked us to continue to work closely with our local Police Departments in assisting to make sure that restaurants comply with the Executive Order and Executive Directive surrounding restaurants and gyms.

 General School Reopening
We have continued to work with our school districts, private schools and businesses in our jurisdiction. We have even had many discussions with our private schools as well. With guidance from the NJDOH and NJDOE, we continue to work with our schools to consult and review the individual best approaches for continued operations amidst Covid case/exposure reports. For a time, calls from schools were received on a 24/7 basis.

Health Officer hosted COVID-19 Teleconference Updates continue via Zoom. Invitations are forwarded weekly to our Mayors, Administrators, OEM Coordinators, Commissioners, Staff and Police Departments as well as other community partners. Media inquiries are also responded to mostly from reporters wanting to gain understanding of the COVID-19 disease status and the department’s current operations to share with the general public.

New and quickly changing information emerges in the form of NJDOH Talking Points, for the purpose of correctly guiding and responding to public questions.

I, along with our Commission’s Budget and Finance Committee and CFO have begun work on the 2021 Health Services Budget. We continue to seek funding opportunities for our operation. We have reached out to the County and State to see if there is public health funding from the CARES Act. We have applied for the 2021 Childhood Lead Grant. The NJACCHO Grant continues to fund a Per Diem Nurse and two Communicable Disease Investigators until the end of January 2021, and FEMA will be reimbursing some of the staff overtime and office cleaning.

Different community concerns have taken priority at different times throughout this public health crisis
In a situation such as this, we hope this has been successful in the vast majority of all calls and requests made to us.
In summary, the professional and dedicated staff working and supporting our towns and residents through every step of this public health crisis extends beyond one department and I thank them all for supporting the MCRHC operation, their towns, public health partners and each other at this most critical juncture.

On a very positive note, we are expecting the birth of our Acting Public Health Epidemiologist’s first child at any time. Congratulations in advance to Jessica and her family!

We are pressing forward (along with the world right now) to keep our communities healthy! Stay encouraged and have a happy and healthy Fall.

Yours in Health,

David A. Henry
Health Officer