Coronavirus in Bernardsville, New Jersey, US
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Mar 22, 2020 Update
We Asked: What is currently happening with regard to the Coronavirus outbreak in your area? Please provide as much detail as possible. She replied...
There are 1,327 cases in New Jersey as of yesterday afternoon. There was a 49% increase yesterday with 442 new cases. That number reflects the spread, but also drive through testing locations just opened in New Jersey and more people are being tested. Conditions and government issue warnings and closures changed drastically from day to day over the last week. As of last night, New Jersey is under a stay at home order. You can leave for essentials and if you are a worker in an essential role - medical, first responders, grocery store employees, restaurants doing curb side takeout, etc. Prior to the stay at home order, many people were complying, but others were semi-adhering to the social distancing orders. Our town warned people to stop going to playgrounds and congregating at fields to play sports, but they ultimately had to close all of those types of recreational areas a few days ago. Our kids, like kids throughout the world, switched to remote learning a week ago. That has been a helpful distraction and I am so grateful for all of the work teachers and administrators have been doing to make this change to online learning possible. Friends who have family members in essential roles are frightened by the lack of masks, gloves and other protective gear. There are online please by local nurses and hospitals to bring any extra N-95 masks and crocs - crocs can be easily bleached. People with sewing machines are making masks that are not N95 but will provide some coverage. It's a scary time here, but I'm glad the stay at home order was issued and hope that it helps to flatten the curve. I wish they would have issued it a week ago when schools were closed.
How People are Coping
We Asked: How are people handling the situation in your area? She replied...
People are adjusting to the day to day changes. Many families are going on walks and keeping their distance when passing others, but people are happy to chat from afar with neighbors they may have never even met before. I don't feel there is a sense of panic here right now. People seem to be settling in to the situation, making the best of it and mentally preparing for the weeks ahead. I think people know that the worst is ahead of us and that is the scariest part right now.
Changing Conditions as coronavirus Spreads
We Asked: How has the situation changed as the Coronavirus has spread? She replied...
The first few days when it became apparent that the US was not going to be able to keep it from spreading people were focused on stocking up, switching to online learning and some where also switching to work from home. Social distancing was the word of the day. Fast forward a couple of days, most people who were in non essential roles were working from home. People were still going to parks and even playgrounds. On St. Patrick's day, parades were cancelled but parties continued. The next day, photos spread online of bars filled with young people partying - with slogans that mocked the coronavirus lockdown. New Jersey and New York's Governors pleaded with people in their press conferences to stop that type of behavior, but young people feel invincible. They begged them to stay home for their grandparents and others at risk. Now, we're on a stay at home order and I welcome that because it will curb that type of behavior. I can only imagine how much things will change in the next 5 days. I pray our efforts to contain the spread make a difference, but know that they may have been started too late.
We Asked: Describe how the government of the country about which you are reporting is handling this situation. She replied...
Many of the orders and choices are in the hands of the states. Ohio, where I lived as a child and many family members live today, was the smartest in my opinion. They closed all schools (rather than going county or town by town like they did here) in one order and several other states followed suit. They closed businesses and asked people to stay at home when there were very few cases in Ohio. I bet that will prove to have been the best course. Initially, officials brought politics into their messaging and people were debating the politics of the situation. Now that things are getting more serious, governors and others have a better tone. Gov. Cuomo has been one of the best leaders in our area in his daily press conferences. His leadership gives me a sense of calm.
Supplies and Shortages
We Asked: Is there a shortage of supplies in your location? She replied...
Yes, there's a major shortage of N-95 masks, protective gowns and other gear for medical workers. Toilet paper, Tylenol, hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies and other things like that are also scarce.
Preparing for the Future
We Asked: What are you doing in terms of preparations in case the situation deteriorates in your location? She replied...
We have done all we can in the last 10 days to prepare to stay at home. We have a lot of food and even bought a small freezer last weekend to store more food. Two of may family members have Celiac disease so we have stocked up on their bread, crackers and rice. On a normal week, I sometimes have to go to 3 stores just to find decent GF bread. So, we stocked up. We did a few final curb side pickups yesterday from our local gluten free bakery and liquor store - bought some wine and beer for the weeks ahead. And, we got gas in our car. The stay at home order started at 9pm last night.
Lockdown & Passing the Time
We Asked: Are you staying home? If so, how are you passing the time?
We are working practically around the clock at Expat Exchange to do as much as we can to support expats during this crisis. But, we're taking time to go for walks with our kids, watch movies, have dinner and play field hockey and lacrosse in the back yard. My daughter is baking a lot and cleaned the house yesterday. My kids (13 and 15) are not that phased by this and don't seem to be thinking about the enormity of the situation, which is a blessing. A few days ago, one kid was complaining about not being able to go places. But, now that things are more serious, he's not complaining at all.
Public Healthcare & Public Hospitals
We Asked: Are you enrolled in the public healthcare system where you live? Do you feel that the public hospitals are handling or preparing for the Coronavirus outbreak effectively? She replied...
Private Health Insurance & Private Hospitals
We Asked: Do you have private health insurance? If you have private insurance, does this give you access to private hospitals? Are private hospitals or clinics better prepared, less prepared, or the same? Please explain. She replied...
Yes, we have private health insurance. Our local hospital is one of the best in the state, Morristown Medical Center. They set up a triage tent outside of the ER about a week or 10 days ago. Hospitals are not public or private here. People have Medicare, private insurance and insurance through the affordable care act (Obamacare). There are different types of plans. Our plan has a list of in-network hospitals where you are covered. We chose our plan because it gave us access to the top hospitals in NJ and NY. Honestly, we had always thought that we wanted access to Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) in NYC (and also here in NJ) in the event that someone in our family was diagnosed with cancer. That was always our worst case scenario that guided us in finding a policy that gave us access to MSK.
Advice for People Outside of Bernardsville, US
We Asked: If you live in an area already heavily affected by coronavirus, what advice would you share with others elswhere in the world who may be facing the same challenges in the future. She replied...
I would advise people to stock up now even if there are no cases in your country or area. If you don't have a large enough freezer or fridge and are able to make that purchase, do it. You won't regret it. A week ago when we bought a little chest freezer to store extra food, we felt like it was really going over the top. But, it was not expensive and just a few days later we are very grateful we did. Don't bankrupt yourself, but do go out and buy extras of your everyday groceries and other items that are shelf stable in case you have to go on lockdown for a few weeks. Figure out now how to order groceries for delivery. And, think about how to sanitize the packages that are delivered to your home. Non-perishables can be left in the bag for several days. Also, buy a few N-95 masks (don't hoard!) and some gloves if you are able. If not, think of what you would use as a makeshift replacement, such as scarves or bandanas, that are better than nothing.
Even if these measures seem extreme, the earlier you start to practice them, the more protected you are from the virus.
And follow the CDC guidelines for hand washing, not touching your face, and staying home as much as possible! People here that were telling others to "relax" a few days ago are now just as angry at those who are not following official pleas to stay at home and observe social distancing.
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Here in Phoenix, Arizona my neighborhood is deadly quiet. No children playing outside, no parties next door, rarely do I see a human except for someone getting into their car and returning shortly. I had a plumbing emergency and called to make an appointment. A few minutes later the plumbing owner called and asked it anyone was sick in the house and I answered no, The plumber arrived with a face mask and gloves. When the job was done he stood 6 feet away and asked for the debit card information and said he would send an invoice by email. He charger $450.00 to put in 2 handles for a faucet. Here there are still shortages at the grocery stores with people making a list and going store to store.and back again. The local supermarkets are impossible to order a delivery because they have no delivery dates open. Amazon could not deliver food items to me but sent a Firestick by the next day. I drove a couple blocks and all the bars were closed and the only stores with cars in the parking lots were grocery stores and laundromats.There were some cars on the road and an occasional jogger or dog walker. We now have confirmed cases of the Corona viruses in the Navajo Nation. Very little testing and a nurse friend told me the ICU's were at about 65% capacity.It is eerie quiet. Surprisingly there are no loud noises from my neighbors.