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BEN FOGLETTO  

Mon. 8/26/02 Al McReynolds fishes on the public pier behind HarrahÕs in Atlantic City. Feature on Al McReynolds, the fisherman who caught the world record striper in 1982. The 20th anniversary of that catch is next month. Story focuses on the ways, good and bad, that the catch transformed McReynolds life during the last 20 years.


News
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Shore, Cape Regional hoping for federal funding help after Thursday meeting

Shore Medical Center and Cape Regional Medical Center are hopeful a Thursday meeting will convince the federal government to include them in funding for hospitals most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The two hospitals have lost millions of dollars in postponed nonessential surgeries and other treatments since mid-March as they complied with necessary state rules to protect the health system from overload during the health crisis, they said.

Yet they got no funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ recent awarding of $12 billion in high-impact area funding. It went to 395 hospitals that provided inpatient care for 100 or more COVID-19 patients through April 10. AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, by contrast, received $26 million.

U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew said Monday he has approached the Trump Administration and asked for reconsideration, after hearing that the two hospitals got no high-impact area funding.

“I have gotten them together, and we are going to speak to the Health and Human Services commissioner herself,” Van Drew said of the Thursday meeting. “I brought the issue and problem to the White House because I felt it was unfair enough it had to be highlighted.”

The meeting about both hospitals is between HHS officials and elected representatives, said Joanne Carrocino, FACHE, president and CEO of Cape Regional Health System.

“Cape Regional Medical Center is looking for a fair and equitable distribution of the funding to all hospitals caring for COVID-19 patients,” Carrocino said.

Shore Medical Center estimates its losses from mid-March through May will be about $24 million, said Brian Cahill, a spokesman for the hospital; while Cape Regional puts its cost and losses due to COVID-19 at $8.3 million to date.

Van Drew said Shore Medical Center has an entire empty floor of rooms, and Cape Regional is losing millions in elective or non-emergent services.

“’Elective’ doesn’t mean not important,” Van Drew said.

Even important surgeries, like Brigantine Mayor Andy Simpson’s kidney transplant, have been postponed.

“We heeded all directives of the CDC and the state Department of Health. We shut down elective surgeries and nonemergent services,” Cahill said. “So whether we had one patient or 1,000 didn’t affect whether we were financially hurt.”

He said Shore’s staff took the same risk as other staff members at other hospitals. “We should not be left out of the recognition of the federal government,” Cahill said.

Van Drew has also written a letter to Gov. Phil Murphy asking him to soon allow hospitals to go back to providing their full variety of services, including elective surgeries, for the health and well-being of patients as well as the financial health of the institutions.

Last week, the two hospitals issued a joint appeal asking members of the community to call U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, at 973-639-8700, and Robert Menendez, at 973-645-3030, and ask them to help the two hospitals get funding from HHS.

A spokesman for Menendez said Monday he is working to make sure every New Jersey hospital receives its fair share of federal funding.

Menendez is collaborating with colleagues to push HHS to release an additional tranche of funding to hard-hit areas, and will press HHS for answers on how the Trump Administration devised “this flawed formula that left out a handful of hospitals on the frontlines of this pandemic,” the spokesman said.

“The whole Atlantic County really rallied behind Shore and that’s the one reason we were able to get the attention of our senators,” Cahill said. He encouraged more people to call both senators.

Many hospitals have had to take measures including staff reductions in nonclinical areas and salary adjustments, because of the loss of revenue during the pandemic.


News
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Another Cape industry looks to open a little at a time for 2020

UPPER TOWNSHIP — The pool is closed and yellow tape surrounds the swings and playground at Plantation Campground, one of several seasonal campgrounds that line Corson Tavern Road.

Curtis Corson’s father opened the campground in 1968.

Some families return for the summer year after year, Curtis Corson said. In some cases, three generations of families have come to the campground.

Campground owners got the word from Trenton that they could open for the year starting May 2, but only for people with a long-term lease on their sites, for RVs, campers and camping trailers that have self-contained bathroom and kitchen facilities. It’s the first step in a planned phased reopening, similar to other areas of the economy.

Corson is not going to be able to open the bathhouse, he said, and cannot yet accept short-term guests.

“We’re going to follow the Board of Health guidelines and recommendations,” he said. The swing set is off limits and the pool closed until further notice. “It’s a different world.”

According to Cape May County Freeholder Will Morey, who along with Freeholder Leonard Desiderio, is leading the county’s efforts to reopen as much as possible in time for the summer, the county campgrounds are an important and often-overlooked segment of the local economy. For many, the campgrounds offer an affordable option for a summer home near the beach, with many renting a spot for the entire season.

“It’s a significant industry in Cape May County,” he said. The campground visitors help sustain the groceries, delis and restaurants, and some house transient workers who come to the county each summer.

The county takes the concerns of the campground owners seriously, Morey said.

Scott Turner, the owner of Ocean View Resort campground in Dennis Township and a member of that municipality’s governing body, has a seat on the county’s business recovery task force, which has now morphed and expanded into the countywide recovery initiative.

Turner also heads up a local association of campgrounds. He did not respond to a request for an interview.

There are 96 privately owned campgrounds in New Jersey, spread out from Cape May to Sussex County.

“We span the state,” said Joanne DelVescio, the executive director of the New Jersey Campground Owners Association. There are campgrounds in 16 counties, in the mountains in North Jersey known as Skylands, a number of campgrounds in Ocean County and about 16 in Atlantic County, but no other county has as many as Cape May County, where 35 campground dot the woods of the mainland communities. There is one seasonal trailer park near the ocean in Strathmere.

“We are very grateful that we were able to open,” said DelVescio. “It’s just like being a second-home owner.”

For now, the campgrounds can open only for long-term renters after the adoption of a resolution by county freeholders at a caucus meeting May 5. The next step will be to allow temporary visitors, for trips of a week or a weekend. According to DelVescio, that could be in place by May 20 for people with their own self-contained camper. They would not rely on any of the campground public facilities, such as showers or bathrooms.

Later, rental units such as yurts, cabins and other options could open, under cleaning protocols similar to those planned for hotels and motels. Those would be units with separate bathroom facilities. That list could include everything from treehouses to teepees, DelVescio said.

“Whatever fun outdoor lodging that’s available,” she said.

The final step, one not expected until later in the summer, would be to allow rustic cabins and tent camping, in which patrons rely on the shared facilities at the campground.

According to DelVescio, campgrounds have already played a role in New Jersey’s pandemic response. In some cases, health care workers who must quarantine from their families have used RVs or trailers, while some essential workers and medical professionals who have responded to work in hospitals have arrived in their own motorized campers.

“The campgrounds have been lodging these people,” she said.

Making sure the seasonal campers have their spot has been a priority for DelVescio’s organization.

“We’ve been advocating since March 21 for the seasonals,” she said. “They’re considered the same as second-home owners, just like the second-home owners along the shore.”

Corson plans to remain open later this year to make up for some of the lost spring weeks. He normally shuts down the first weekend in October, but now plans to remain open until Nov. 1. In addition to closing amenities, he now runs the camp office out of a window instead of allowing guests inside and is trying to practice social distancing. He has signs to encourage distance within the campground.

Visitors can’t swim in the pool and the kids can’t play on the swings, but campfires are allowed for families. No visiting between sites allowed, however. If campgrounds were shut down for the summer, he said, few would survive to 2021.

“There are a lot of businesses that aren’t going to open again even after three months of this nonsense,” he said, describing the situation as worse than the effects of Superstorm Sandy. “It is what it is. We’re trying to make the best of it.”


News
No change in police response to domestic violence, child abuse and violent crime calls

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Middle Township police Chief Christopher Leusner wanted all state residents to know that nothing has changed when it comes to responding to domestic violence, child abuse and violent crime calls.

Leusner, who is also the president of the N.J. State Association of Chiefs of Police, participated Monday afternoon in a COVID-19 virtual town hall about law enforcement during National Police Week.

Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, who also participated in the town hall, said domestic violence reporting numbers have decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is believed the crime is being underreported.

When it comes to domestic violence, child abuse and violent crime calls, police are responding, investigating and making arrests, like they aways have, Leusner said. Domestic violence advocates are still working, and Family Success Centers are still operational, he said.

Gov. Phil Murphy was also a part of the virtual town hall. Ten police officers have lost their lives during the state’s battle with COVID-19, Murphy said, An 11th officer, Charles “Robb” Roberts of the Glen Ridge Police Department, Essex County, had his death confirmed during the 90-minute town hall.

Murphy recognized police officers for enforcing the stay-at-home orders dealing with individuals whose COVID-19 status is unknown. He especially thanked the retired officers who came back to lend a hand.

The governor said he is fighting with everything he has to receive federal aid to help cover the state’s expenses. He has talked to both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence about it.

“I will not relent. I promise you that,” Murphy said.

Along with Murphy and Leusner, Marcus O. Hicks, commissioner of the N.J. Department of Corrections, was among the participants in the town hall. Prisons are one of the places nationwide where clusters of COVID-19 infections have occurred.

Cumberland County has three prisons — South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton and Bayside State Prison and the Southern State Correctional Facility, which are in the Leesburg and Delmont sections, respectively, of Maurice River Township.

Hicks talked about what the prisons were doing to mitigate COVID-19 during the town hall.

Temperature checks have been started for those entering the prisons, Hicks said. The inmate visitation program has been suspended, but there has been an increase in what is allowed as far as phone calls and mail, he said.

Inmates are not released without identification or without health care arrangements being made, Hicks said.

If inmates fall into one of four categories, it is possible they can be furloughed to their homes, Hicks said. The categories include those age 60 and older, those who have been denied parole in the last year and those with high-risk medical conditions, he said.

“We want to balance public health and public safety,” Hicks said.

Here’s where to get tested for COVID-19 in South Jersey

Education
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NJ state police chief says 'wave parades' for students OK as long as no one gathers

It’s not that “wave parades” aren’t permitted for celebrations during the COVID-19 crisis, but people cannot gather in one area, State Police Col. Patrick Callahan said Monday during the daily state coronavirus briefing.

Callahan, responding to a question regarding a memo to school officials late last week, said he wanted to clarify his intent.

“What we are discouraging — and the intent of my letter to the (Department of Education) — was directing students to gather at the front lawn of a school, at a football stadium, at a town hall, because what you’re doing is inviting them to gather, which is in violation of the (executive order),” Callahan said.

This new form of parades, where participants drive in their cars on a preset route to celebrate events such as birthdays or graduations, was developed as a way to maintain social-distancing requirements but not forgo marking special occasions.

The letter, dated May 9, was included in a broadcast from the New Jersey Department of Education to school administrators that same day regarding virtual graduation celebrations.

“Recent events related to the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in questions and concerns regarding celebrations planned to recognize students, as well as ceremonies intended to honor New Jersey school graduates of the Class of 2020,” Callahan wrote. “While it is recognized that milestones such as graduations deserve the acknowledgement of the school and parent communities, it is critical to understand the need to acknowledge academic achievements in ways that do not compromise or endanger public health during the COVID-19 emergency.”

The letter goes on to state that Executive Order No. 107, signed by Gov. Phil Murphy on March 21, directs New Jersey residents to remain at home with certain exceptions.

“In light of the components of Executive Order No. 107, and in the best interest of the health and safety of the public, in-person ceremonies, including graduations, all parades, including ‘wave parades,’ that invite people to gather at a certain location, proms, and other similar celebrations violate the enumerated conditions of the order, and should therefore be canceled or postponed until such time as these restrictions are lifted,” Callahan wrote.

The Department of Education broadcast came just days after Murphy announced May 4 that schools would remain closed to students through the remainder of this school year.

At that time, Murphy extended his executive order declaring a public health emergency into June, which extends the stay-at-home order.

When asked by a reporter about the memo Monday, Callahan said he “knew it was coming.” He said there was confusion and the guidance was directed at people who were out of their cars.

“We would never and we could not prevent vehicles driving by, let’s say it’s a senior and he or (she) is on their front porch with their parents,” he said. “It’s a great gesture to give that sense of solidarity, but when there’s 50 people standing on top of each other on the curb of a hospital or in front of a high school, that’s where the problem comes in.”

Murphy added that the loss of graduations for high school seniors “stinks.”

“There’s no other way to put it,” he said.

Murphy said the administration feels awful, but they have to make sure there are no unintended infections of others to celebrate the graduates.

Murphy said in his May 4 briefing that he was working with stakeholders to develop ways to properly recognize students who are graduating this year.

In the broadcast, Assistant Commissioner AbdulSaleem Hasan encouraged schools to develop virtual graduations for seniors streamed online or broadcast with pre-recorded student speeches.

“Consider reaching out to celebrities or public figures to record speeches or messages for seniors in your school district. If resources allow, your district may consider developing a virtual reality graduation, where within a virtual graduation environment, student avatars participate in a graduation ceremony,” the broadcast suggests. “Schools can also consider asking members of the graduating class to take a leading role in the graduation ceremony.”

Contact: 609-272-7251 CLowe@pressofac.com Twitter @clairelowe