LAKEWOOD, NJ – The Township of Lakewood was one of the hardest-hit Jersey Shore communities during the COVID-19 pandemic and year-long business and social lockdown enacted by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.
The township was host to 12,931 positive COVID-19 cases and in the early days of the pandemic faced scrutiny for groups of individuals not following the governor’s COVID-19 guidelines preventing large gatherings.
In March of 2020, neighboring Jackson Township officials called for Governor Phil Murphy to deploy the New Jersey National Guard around Lakewood to enforce the governor’s lockdown. That call was lead by former township Councilman Barry Calogero, an employee of the USDA, appointed by President Donald J. Trump.
Murphy never called the National Guard, but weeks later, New Jersey Assemblyman Greg McGuckin introduced legislation in Trenton that sought to penalize the Lakewood community members who refused to follow Murphy’s guidelines with $15,000 fines.
That bill was later pulled once it was revealed that McGuckin was targeting Orthodox Jews and because the law would have also fined residents all over the state for hosting gatherings and in some cases, even opening their businesses against the will of the Governor.
While Lakewood had a high infection rate as the community sought to gain “herd immunity’ from the virus, the Lakewood death rate remained much lower than surrounding towns which have much higher concentrations of senior citizens.
“Lakewood is one of the most important communities in our state,” Murphy said as he visited the Chemed vaccination clinic here.
During his visit to Lakewood, he did not visit the Lakewood Public School District where teachers are now frightened after several COVID-19 outbreaks within the district. He also did not meet with teachers union leaders but said he is in regular contact with them.
Murphy was greeted by Rabbi Aaron Kotler, who heads the town’s largest Yeshiva Beth Medrash Govoal; Agudath Israel State Director Avi Schnall and former Lakewood Mayor Meir Lichtenstein.