Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli, Jr., Statement on the Defiance of Gov. Phil Murphy’s Executive Order

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“More than 5,800 Camden County residents have been infected with COVID-19 and tragically more than 270 have died from this insidious disease since March 1. We are experiencing a public health crisis, the likes of which has not been seen in this state since the 1918 Spanish Flu. Based on these unprecedented times the state, the county and our towns have taken aggressive public health initiatives to save lives and break the back of this virus that can be transmitted with alarming ease. There has been a stay at home order in effect since mid-March, the closure of our businesses and schools, and life as we know it has been turned upside down.


There is no question this has been tough on all of us. It’s extremely tough for those who have lost their jobs, for those who are experiencing food insecurity, and for those who want to get back to a regular routine. I will be the first to say that I believe we need to start taking a thoughtful look into how we can get back to work in a manner that puts employees first by protecting them from spreading the virus. Nevertheless, this is a public health crisis like we have never seen in our lifetimes and we need to continue to go through these strong, painful measures because the alternative of increased hospitalizations, ICU bed usage, ventilators and death is not acceptable. We need to keep mitigation efforts moving forward for the overall good of our community.  


That said, we also need to acclimate to our new normal when the data and our public health experts say it’s safe to do so. I say all that to say, that arbitrarily opening a nonessential business is breaking the law. Having rallies with congregations of people close together without masks is putting people at risk to spread the virus. These capricious actions undermine the work we have all done and the progress we have made over the last two months.


Although the methods were flawed, I think some good points have been raised through this conversation about reopening our businesses. There have been insightful ideas about progress with social distancing and protections that could be put in place for individual business owners to assimilate into the new normal we live in, but ultimately this is no way to advocate these ideas. 


No two ways around it, we have, as a community, with the help of infectious disease experts, doctors, and public health officials, made practical decisions to limit the damage of COVID-19 by social distancing and implementing mitigation efforts. Camden County is finally out of the 30-day range for our doubling rate and has seen real progress in terms of stopping the spread and limiting growth. My intention is to work with state leadership to keep it going. In short, there is a right way and wrong way to do things and the actions that have transpired at the gym are clearly the wrong way. We are seeing significant destruction being wrought by the virus and as a society we cannot give it the opportunity to regain a foothold in Camden County.