LAKEWOOD, NJ – Over the past 7 days, there have been 1,435 cases of COVID-19 in Ocean County. Of those new cases, 1,009 were in Lakewood, 138 were in Jackson Township and 106 were in Toms River. The figures, published by the Ocean County Health Department highlight a weeklong effort by the State of New Jersey to begin tracking down and containing the spread of the virus in Lakewood. On Friday, Governor Phil Murphy held a roundtable discussion with Ocean County and Lakewood community leaders to work on a plan to combat the sharp increase in positive testing in the past ten days.
Orthodox Jewish leaders raised concerns about how the information from the Governor’s office is being filtered to the media and said measures should be taken to ensure that the information about Lakewood’s increased testing and increased positivity doesn’t breed anti-Semitism. Rabbi Avi Schnall of Agudath Israel of America said community leaders are making their best effort to inform residents to wear face masks and practice social distancing, adding that many synagogues throughout the community have erected large outdoor tents to keep worship services outdoors when possible.
“Wherever you go in Lakewood, you’ll see tents popping up all over the place,” Schnall said. “We don’t take this for granted.”
Lakewood Mayor Lichenstein said his community is ready to increase testing and that the rabbis have put word out that their members should continue testing.
“We need to move a little faster getting them the tests,” Lichtenstein said.
Governor Murphy said that 2,000,000 rapid COVID-19 tests were coming from the federal government and Murphy said it was a good suggestion to send those to hotspots like Lakewood.
Duvi Honig, head of the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce worried about the increase in testing next week will no doubt lead to an increase in new positive cases and hoped that when those new numbers are released by the state, the Governor’s office keeps in mind the risk of anti-Semitism as a result.
“I would like to just address, long these lines how Lakwewood is being singled out…with the challenges we had earlier this year unfortunately with the Jersey City attack,” Honig said. “We’re concerned and I feel also hesitation in the test places where we want to increase the testing, how it’s given over to the media and reflects on Lakewood.”
Honig fears that when Lakewood rolls out increased testing the positive numbers will be higher.
“But we’re doing increased testing to stay safe not to show the media or be misrepresented that our numbers are much higher,” Konig said. “What causes hate and can increase the challenge of anti-semitism…please treat us fairly.”
“There’s no room for blaming a spec on this community or that community,” Murphy said.
Murphy said the state needs to defend every single community and there would be no tolerance for”finger-pointing stuff”.