Lakewood Residents Aren’t Knuckleheads, Why Not?

LAKEWOOD, NJ – When a handful of high school kids in Middletown hosted a party and two dozen contracted mild symptoms of COVID-19, according to Governor Phil Murphy, they were knuckleheads putting the lives of every resident of New Jersey at risk.    When a family in New Jersey attended a wedding in South Carolina over the summer and brought COVID-19 back with them, they were knuckleheads.  When Donovans Reef had a bunch of people drinking beer without facemasks, not only were they knuckleheads, but the bar’s license was threatened to be revoked by the governor.   When Republicans stood outside the New Jersey statehouse protesting Governor Murphy, you guessed it, they were knuckleheads too.

Knuckleheads are everywhere in New Jersey under Governor Phil Murphy.  You can find knuckleheads on the boardwalk, at the beach, in the shopping malls, in parks, and small businesses all around New Jersey.  Anyone who doesn’t adhere to Murphy’s rules of health safety is a knucklehead.  There are even signs along every major highway reminding us all not to be knuckleheads.

So far, none of the knuckleheads called out by Governor Phil Murphy and charged or arrested by the Attorney General’s office have led to any major outbreak of COVID-19 in any community.

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Want to know who are definitely not knuckleheads? The residents of Lakewood, who by Murphy’s own admission have been ignoring the governor’s most sacred executive orders.  Last week, New Jersey State Police Superintendent Patrick Callahan reported photos of large indoor congregations, lack of wearing masks, and limited social distancing in some parts of Lakewood.  Murphy blamed that wonton disregard for his executive orders for a COVID-19 outbreak in Lakewood that is now spreading to surrounding communities, Jackson Township and Toms River.  But, they’re not knuckleheads.

In fact, the situation is quite the opposite.  Murphy apologetically met with Lakewood and Ocean County religious and community leaders last Friday to let the community know that all resources available will be delivered to Lakewood to help those leaders enforce compliance, without state intervention.   Nobody will lose their business licenses, no charges will be filed and nobody will be called a knucklehead in Lakewood.

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Now, when it comes to trick-or-treating in the surrounding communities, Murphy on Monday issued a stern warning…don’t be a knucklehead.

Murphy’s actions have left many in Ocean County scratching their heads.  If this was Seaside Heights or Asbury Park, Murphy would have quarantined the town, enforced martial law and his attorney general would be launching a criminal probe into the matter.

With a positivity rate of over 26% as of Friday, well over the Governor’s recommended level of 1%, Lakewood Township has a COVID-19 crisis.  The average national positivity rate for COVID-19 nationwide right now is 4.6% according to John Hopkins University.  If Lakewood was a state, it would be the state with the second-highest COVID-19 positivity rate, after Mississippi according to Becker’s Hospital Review’s daily positivity report.

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Why is the percentage of positivity important during the pandemic?

According to John Hopkins University, “The percent positive is exactly what it sounds like: the percentage of all coronavirus tests performed that are actually positive, or: (positive tests)/(total tests) x 100%. The percent positive (sometimes called the “percent positive rate” or “positivity rate”) helps public health officials answer questions such as: What is the current level of SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) transmission in the community? Are we doing enough testing for the number of people who are getting infected?”

The percent positive will be high if the number of positive tests is too high, or if the number of total tests is too low. A higher percent positive suggests higher transmission and that there are likely more people with coronavirus in the community who haven’t been tested yet.

The percent positive is a critical measure because it gives us an indication of how widespread infection is in the area where the testing is occurring—and whether levels of testing are keeping up with levels of disease transmission.

“A high percent positive means that more testing should probably be done—and it suggests that it is not a good time to relax restrictions aimed at reducing coronavirus transmission. Because a high percentage of positive tests suggests high coronavirus infection rates (due to high transmission in the community), a high percent positive can indicate it may be a good time to add restrictions to slow the spread of disease,” the University said in a statement about high positive testing percentages in communities. “The higher the percent positive is, the more concerning it is. As a rule of thumb, however, one threshold for the percent positive being “too high” is 5%. For example, the World Health Organization recommended in May that the percent positive remain below 5% for at least two weeks before governments consider reopening.”

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Murphy said his visit last week to Lakewood was very productive.

“I don’t know how many on the road daily events we will do going forward, but I thought our trip, I defer to my colleagues here, I thought our trip Friday to Ocean County was very productive. We had leadership, health from the county, law enforcement, health, elected officials, faith leaders, education leaders,” he said.  “I thought it was a good visit. Again, can’t say this enough, hats off to everybody. Everybody checked their partisan affiliations and beliefs at the door. Nothing but the facts, nothing but focusing on what we need to do together to get our arms around it and that’s something we may want to try again at some point. Ocean County remains a high priority, as Judy went through the math in Lakewood, but not just Lakewood. As we mentioned, at least Jackson among other townships you highlighted on Friday were also having elevated case numbers. We will continue to keep an eye on that, as we do around the state.”

So, why isn’t there any “knucklehead” talk in Lakewood?