So far, only one elected official has had the guts to say what is on everyone’s mind in the towns surrounding Lakewood, Jackson Councilman Barry Calogero took a stand and demanded action from Governor Phil Murphy, even requested deployment of the National Guard.
JACKSON, NJ – It has been the unspoken word in New Jersey since the COVID-19 pandemic began taking a chokehold in northern Ocean County. Governor Phil Murphy has deflected. Ocean County freeholders have turned a blind eye and even in the surrounding towns of Jackson, Toms River, Brick, Howell and Freehold, mayors and elected officials remained completely silent.
Lakewood Township has a COVID-19 problem and that problem appears to be spreading to Jackson, Toms River and Brick. Figures released daily from the Ocean County Health Department seem to correlate with the community sentiment that the Lakewood COVID-19 problem is also becoming their town’s problem according to many groups on Facebook.
Toms River Mayor Mo Hill publicly denied this theory that has been circulating on social media, claiming he is in possession of a top-secret COVID-19 infection map that disproves the fears that many in surrounding have. So far, Hill has refused to release that map and the Ocean County Health Department has said they doubt that such a map exists, because they also do not have it. Hill has been accused by people in his town of deflecting the issue since his campaign for election in 2019 relied heavily on the voting bloc of the town’s growing Orthodox Jewish population.
In reality, all elected officials in the entire state of New Jersey have largely ignored the elephant in the room here in Ocean County.
Enter Jackson Township Councilman Barry Calogero who echoed the sentiments of many on social media since the Lakewood COVID-19 cluster has been growing.
How in God’s name can civilized people disrespect their neighbors? Selfish…Irresponsible.
“Unfortunately, not everyone is following the law of the land, unfortunately, there are groups of people who hide behind cultures and religious beliefs who put themselves, our first responders and quite honestly all of Jackson and all of the bordering towns [of Lakewood] are at risk. For their selfishness, irresponsibility, and inability to follow the law put in place by President Trump and Governor Murphy,” Calogero said. “How in God’s name can civilized people disrespect their neighbors the President and the Governor’s orders. It is with a sad heart I implore governor murphy to set aside politics and use your power and authority to call out the national guard to enforce the law and protect Ocean County from those who cannot seem to follow our laws.”
Calogero did not mention Lakewood by name but referenced the towns that immediately surround Lakewood.
Calogero pleaded for Governor Murphy to deploy national guard troops to Lakewood to contain the outbreak of parties, business openings and lack of social distancing reported by the Attorney General. Lakewood’s not the only community that seems to be violating these laws. Each day, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal reports on large amounts of gatherings in cities such as Newark, but Lakewood is the one that directly affects the Ocean County communities that border it.
Calogero’s plea was heartfelt and personal. Calogero suffers from Parkinson’s disease which has not been identified as co-morbidity risk factor with COVID-19, but patients suffering from Parkinson’s Disease have seen complications in treatment, according to the American Parkinson’s Disease Association.
Shortly after Calogero spoke at Tuesday’s public meeting, Mayor Michael Reina, spoke and wished for the community to stay safe and healthy during the Murphy lockdown. Reina did not endorse or support Calogero’s request for the National Guard at the meeting. Reina has maintained media and public silence throughout most of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reina said he met with officials from Atlantic and Cape May Counties and told residents to stay safe and stay positive and to stay abreast of what’s going on.
On social media, Jackson residents and residents of neighboring communities applauded Calogero’s bravado, showing support for his leadership initiative despite the political and social pressure he may face from entities shielding Lakewood from public scrutiny.