“There have been few experiences in my time as a Camden County Freeholder that have brought me as much pain and sadness as the one we are currently navigating together. As we approach the holiday season, I fear that this difficult period will only become more challenging, especially if we do not immediately begin to heed the advice of public health experts.
Contact tracers at the Camden County Health Department continue to report that the driving force behind this second surge is small, household parties and get-togethers. Today, Governor Murphy took steps to reduce viral transmission by announcing a new 10-person cap on these kinds of indoor gatherings. These measures have come just in time, because while the Governor did not explicitly link his executive order to the coming Thanksgiving holiday, Nov. 26 could significantly inflame our current crisis if we are not careful.
This year, no one should be planning to attend or host indoor Thanksgiving celebrations with individuals who do not live in their household. If you are still planning such an event, the time has come to cancel. With cases of COVID-19 surging at levels we have not previously seen, it is imperative that we not let our guard down or fan the flames of this crisis. Even with gatherings of fewer than 10 people, if you plan to gather indoors, all guests should prepare to be tested for COVID-19 in advance of the event and to quarantine for 14 days to ensure they have not been exposed to the virus or pose a risk to others.
We know this step is necessary because this is not our first pandemic holiday. On Easter Sunday, Camden County was averaging 99 new confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 each day. One week later, the average had increased 9 percent to 108 cases per day. On July 4, we averaged just 25 cases. One week later, a 48 percent increase to 37 cases per day. On Halloween, we averaged 86. One week later, a 74 percent increase to 150.
We have seen again and again during this pandemic, that when we try to steal a reprieve from the coronavirus by gathering with family and friends, it only tightens its grip on our community. We cannot afford a similar tightening this time, with our cases already at record levels and our hospitals working tirelessly to keep beds open and keep sick people alive.
I take no joy in making this recommendation, but it is critical that we take this seriously so that we can share many more holidays with our loved ones in the years to come. We have to sacrifice today so that we can still enjoy tomorrow.
That said, we have made a lot of sacrifices this year, and I know that there is little appetite to make more, but we can take comfort in knowing that the light at the end of the tunnel is beginning to shine brighter. Last week, Pfizer announced that early results on a vaccine trial showed 90 percent effectiveness, and today Moderna made even bigger news with a 95 percent effective vaccine of their own.
The coming months will not be easy, but we will get through them, and we can still dictate just how hard they will be. That effort is ongoing, but it starts in earnest next week.
Every decision you make during this pandemic has the potential to slow or hasten the spread of this virus. Please, protect yourself and those around you by wearing a mask, social distancing, washing your hands, and cancelling all planned indoor gatherings.”