Deptford Township officials offer some clarity on COVID-19 numbers

Officials discuss why Deptford’s virus totals are so high.

As the calendar turned to May, Deptford Township had more COVID-19 cases than any other municipality in Gloucester County. Township officials say there is a reason for that.

Durling last Monday’s remote council meeting, Township Manager Thomas Newman and Mayor Paul Medany discussed the pandemic, including the township’s high number of cases, its efforts to develop a re-opening plan and how it will keep people safe at the municipal building.

As of last Monday’s meeting, Deptford Township had 334 COVID-19 cases. That was the highest number in Gloucester County by a wide margin, with larger municipalities such as Washington Township (217 cases as of last Monday) and Monroe Township (156 cases) ranking much lower.

While Deptford has a lower population than Washington Township and Monroe, it outranks all county municipalities in the number of long-term care facilities within its borders. Out of 11 long-term care facilities in Gloucester County reporting COVID-19 cases to the New Jersey Department of Health, four are in Deptford.  Those four facilities combined account for the bulk of Deptford’s COVID-19 cases.

Newman said the four facilities had a combined 169 COVID-19 cases as of last Monday, making up a little more than half of the township’s total number. In addition, 44 staff members at those facilities have also tested positive for COVID-19. Newman said staff members are not counted in Deptford’s total unless they live in the township.

“That’s a good portion of the cases we have in town,” Newman reported. “We’re running very high numbers compared to other towns in the county and this helps explain it.”

Medany said the township further investigated its case number because it wanted to know more about where the cases were coming from and keep residents updated.

The mayor also credited residents for continuing to follow the guidelines of health officials in regard to social distancing. Last Monday’s meeting came two days after county and state parks were reopened across New Jersey. Deptford Township’s parks are open for passive recreation, but playgrounds remain closed.

“Everyone is using masks,” said Medany. “A lot of people are wearing gloves and if they’re not, they’re using hand sanitizer.”

“We’re fortunate people pay attention in Deptford and understand Deptford will get together through this whole scenario,” Councilman Ken Barnshaw added later in the meeting.

Medany also discussed a video conference he had earlier in the day with federal and state officials and talked about the importance of trying to keep people in town healthy while also looking out for businesses. Medany talked about the importance of coming up with a strong reopening plan for Deptford due to the large number of commercial businesses in the township, but also emphasized how crucial it is to have expanded testing and personal protective equipment for everyone.

“We’re working with our state and federal reps, giving them information and getting information from them,” he said.

Deptford Township is also figuring out what it needs to do to keep people safe  when the municipal building reopens. Newman said an increase in the number of hand sanitizer stations, dividers between work stations, social distancing markers on the floors and improved signage are all in the works.

At the start of the council meeting, Medany issued a proclamation to township clerk Dina Zawadski in honor of Professional Municipal Clerk’s Week May 3 through May 9. All of the council members thanked Zawadski and the clerk’s office for being on top of everything, with first-year Councilwoman Mackenzie Belling noting Zawadski has been instrumental in answering her many questions during her first four months on council.

The next Deptford Township Council meeting is a work session scheduled for Monday, May 18, at 6 p.m. The next action meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 8, at 6 p.m.