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Bright Side Covid-19 Recent News

Camden County Driving Range to re-open Friday

(Pennsauken, NJ) – The Camden County Driving Range at Cooper River Park will re-open on Friday, May 22, for the first time since being required to close by an executive order signed by Governor Phil Murphy in April. Yesterday, May 18, Governor Murphy signed a new order allowing certain outdoor activities to resume, including batting cages, horseback riding, and driving ranges.

“The Driving Range is an excellent candidate for early re-opening because social distancing is so easy to maintain while taking advantage of the facility,” said Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli, Jr. “Our staff has heard from countless residents who have been hoping to return to the range for stress relief, exercise, and even rehabilitation of injuries. We are excited to be able to offer this service to our community once again and ask that all patrons work to help us maintain a safe and friendly environment when visiting the range.”

Operations at the driving range will be slightly altered in order to ensure the safety of all visitors. Some changes include:

  • All outdoor seating will be removed;
  • Restrictions on clubhouse access;
  • Encouraged use of contactless payment methods (example: Apple Pay); and
  • Staff will wear gloves and face coverings at all times.

The driving range provides easy-to-maintain social distancing thanks to hitting stalls which are spaced seven feet apart, and the 12-foot deep walking area behind these stalls. Most customers and employees never have to touch shared golf balls thanks to contactless ball dispensers to fill buckets, and ball trays at ground level in each stall.

“The only commonly touched, shared surface in the entire facility will be the buckets themselves,” Cappelli said. “Our staff will be sanitizing these buckets between every use and only placing them back into rotation once they have been appropriately disinfected.”

The driving range will re-open during its normal operating hours from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week. For more information regarding services at the driving range, hours, and prices, visit https://www.camdencounty.com/service/parks/camden-county-driving-range/.

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Bright Side Covid-19 News

First Bank Donates $30K+ To Provide COVID-19 Relief

HAMILTON, N.J. — First Bank (NASDAQ: FRBA) announced on May 18, 2020 that it has donated $30,500 to help communities hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The community bank, which has 18 full-service branches throughout New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania, has made contributions to more than a dozen nonprofits that will be allocated to fight the mounting medical, social and economic impact of the pandemic.

“There are many people sacrificing on the frontlines today,” said First Bank President and CEO Patrick L. Ryan. “From health care systems that heal and police departments that protect to nonprofits that serve, we support them. No matter the crisis, we are in this together.”

The NJ Bankers Charitable Foundation effort is the one that kicked off First Bank’s charitable giving campaign. NJ Bankers has agreed to match every dollar donated by NJ Bankers member banks up to $50,000. At the time of this writing, more than $112,000 has been raised (matching included) for the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund.  Based in Morristown, the NJPRF raises funds and coordinates resources in response to COVID-19.

Below is a list of more non-profits that have received support from First Bank:

  • Rescue Mission of Trenton, based in Trenton, helps individuals in need with many offerings including an emergency shelter, weekend soup kitchen, substance abuse program and a Mission Store.
  • West Chester University, based in West Chester, Pennsylvania, will help students impacted by the global health crisis through the school’s Emergency Student Aid Fund.
  • Chester County Community Foundation, based in West Chester, Pennsylvania, helps provide flexible resources to county nonprofits disproportionately impacted by the outbreak.
  • The Decency Foundation, based in Hopewell, works with restaurants to provide nourishment to those impacted as part of the Working Meals fundraising campaign.
  • Trenton YMCA, based in Trenton, provides free breakfast and lunch for 1,100 children Monday through Friday while school is out, plus 50 meals to families in temporary housing seven days per week in Mercer County and the northern Burlington area.
  • Hopewell Valley YMCA, based in Hopewell, provides emergency childcare for essential workers, now through the summer, plus aid in community food pantry efforts.
  • Foundations Community Partnership, based in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, helps provide financial resources for nonprofits serving children and families throughout Bucks County.
  • Mount Carmel Guild, based in Trenton, assists with home nursing services for low-income seniors citywide and throughout the greater Mercer County region.
  • Catholic Youth Organization, based in Trenton, helps operate a food pantry twice per week and distribute about 200 lunches and snack packs each weekday in partnership with the Trenton YMCA.
  • Good Counsel Homes, based in Riverside, provides a rescue home for pregnant women, mothers and children to help avoid homelessness and poverty, many of whom have been hurt by the pandemic.
  • Project Paul, based in Keansburg, provides a food pantry and thrift store operation that relies on sales to help fund food pantry efforts. Thrift stores have been closed by the pandemic.
  • nourish.NJ, based in Morris County, offers food, housing, work readiness, medical, social and educational services 365 days a year. During COVID-19, they have been providing bagged lunches free to pick-up for anyone who needs it.
  • 200 Club of Morris County, based in Morris County, provides care for families of emergency workers affected by the pandemic.
  • RWJ Hospital Hamilton Foundation, based in Hamilton, offers a fundraiser to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospital staff to help counter COVID-19-related shortages.
  • Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey, based in Cherry Hill, offers a fund for COVID-19 relief.
  • Boys & Girls Club of Mercer County, based in Trenton, provides children age 3-18 throughout the county with social, enrichment and recreational activities. The group’s biggest fundraising event of the year has been turned into an online event due to COVID-19.

Brenda Rascher, executive director of Catholic Social Services at the Diocese of Trenton, said First Bank’s contributions to the last four listed charities will “go far” in offering much-needed basic services.

“Many people may not be aware that all our Catholic social service agencies are open and serving those in need while also making adjustments for social distancing,” Rascher said. “The four agencies that received First Bank’s donations are all not only serving an increasing number of families at their food pantries, but their usual sources of financial support and food donations have been interrupted or even stopped completely.”

Tobias Bruhn, executive director at the Foundations Community Partnership, echoed similar sentiments.

“Our new COVID-19 Response Grant program reflects Foundations Community Partnership’s long-standing commitment to help the non-profit community in their efforts to serve Bucks County children, youth, and families throughout this public health and economic crisis,” Bruhn said. “We applaud First Bank’s generous support and commitment to our community in times like these. It’s comforting to know that ‘We Are All in This Together.’”

How First Bank Bands Communities Together

There are several reasons why First Bank is one of the fastest-growing community banks in the nation.

For example, the bank believes in local decision-making. In other words, clients have access to First Bank’s decision-makers. The bank’s market executives have lending authority—and use it. For larger clients, customers can expect to talk to the bank’s CEO, who plays a pivotal role in helping to foster lasting business relationships.

Most importantly, the community bank views itself as a solution-provider, where everything begins with a conversation. First Bank’s employees listen intently and ask smart questions, so they can provide the best answer.

In addition, First Bank operates with a long-term mindset. It recognizes that its reputation is its most valuable asset. To preserve its good name, First Bank keenly focuses on delivering the best long-term results. By providing great recommendations and following through on its promises, the community bank continues to build its reputation and base of happy customers.

The community bank’s branches offer the bank’s full range of financial solutions for families and businesses, including:

  • Personal deposit accounts
  • Business deposit accounts
  • Certificates of deposits
  • Retirement accounts
  • Cash management services
  • Commercial lending
  • Lines of credit
  • Term loans
  • Real estate loans

The bank offers traditional deposit and loan banking services for individuals, families and commercial clients. The bank has approximately 210 employees working throughout New Jersey in Burlington, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset and Morris counties, as well as Bucks and Chester counties in Pennsylvania.

To learn more about First Bank, visit firstbanknj.com or firstbankpa.com.

About First Bank

First Bank (firstbanknj.com/firstbankpa.com) is a New Jersey state-chartered bank with 18 full-service branches throughout New Jersey in Burlington, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset and Morris counties, as well as in Bucks and Chester counties, Pennsylvania. With $2.10 billion in assets as of March 31, 2020, First Bank offers a traditional range of deposit and loan products to individuals and businesses throughout the New York City to Philadelphia corridor. First Bank’s common stock is listed on the Nasdaq Global Market exchange under the symbol “FRBA.” 

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Covid-19 News Recent News

An Open Letter to Gov. Phil Murphy Regarding Opening Atlantic City’s Casinos

Office of the Governor of New Jersey
Trenton, New Jersey 08625

Your Excellency Governor Phil Murphy:

My name is Hemang A. Sutaria. I am writing to you to as a son, a husband, and a parent. Along with my family, I am one of your constituents. My wife, my mother, and I have been unemployed due to COVID-19 Pandemic. We are all Casino Workers and have been for decades.

There has been talk in the Local News Media of Casinos making plans to open by early or mid-June. These are opening plans being presented by Casino Owners and Corporations alike. I agree to the fact that businesses have to resume operations and economic activity has to commence. Although, another fact still remains true. There is no viable vaccine presently available to the public at large to fight this virus. The risks are greatly enhanced by simply walking into an enclosed public building, like a Casino. I am not a Health Care Professional, but I am confident the last thing a Health Care Professional would recommend during an infectious pandemic is to have a large public gathering in an enclosed public building for a prolonged period of time. We have all read unfortunate reports of Health Care Workers being infected and dying. This virus does not spare anyone, even if they are using state of the art personal protective equipment (PPE). How would a Casino Worker fare against this virus with only a face mask?

I applaud the efforts Casino Corporations are making to keep employees and patrons safe. This is a difficult time for them as well. Although, they are blinded by their unwavering loyalty to their partners and shareholders. Casinos have all setup some form of gaming operations via online gaming and online sports betting. Granted, the Casino buildings are closed, but they have all conducted business as usual online, with revenues surpassing that of Las Vegas. Apart from online revenues, I would highly doubt Casinos Corporations were left out of the $2.2 Trillion Stimulus Package awarded by the Federal Government with the passing of the CARES Act.

It has been largely reported in the National News Media the unfortunate developments of some of the White House Staffers and President Trump’s personal Valet having been tested positive for COVID-19. One has to wonder, IF the most protected building on our planet, not just on our planet, but in the known universe was penetrated by COVID-19, what chance does an Atlantic City Casino worker or a Las Vegas Casino Worker have against this virus?

I humbly request you to carefully consider the opening of Atlantic City Casinos. I’m sure there will be political and economic pressure to resume Casino Operations. I assure you, by opening Casinos, which are non-essential, you will be sentencing not just my family and me, but some of my 16,000+ colleagues to their grave. Casinos serve one purpose and one purpose alone, ENTERTAINMENT…! The economic recovery via entertainment revenue and gaming revenue can wait a little while. Atlantic City Casinos have had since 1978 to prepare for rainy day funds. Multi- billion dollar Casino Corporations have never been satisfied with revenues, they always want more! As a 15+ year Casino Worker, I can tell you from my experience that Casino Corporations are notorious for talking out of both sides of their mouth and cutting corners, regardless of the negative effects on patrons or employees.

Governor Murphy, this letter is not intended to vilify anyone or any business. Although, as our Governor, you are our last line of defense. You have the supreme authority to decide our fate as we move forward during this time of uncertainty and fear. I hope and pray God will accord you prudence and wisdom to prolong Casino openings. Please do not subject your constituents and their families (regardless of party affiliation) to suffer from the COVID-19 fallout for economic recovery, profitable casino balance sheets and stock price gains. Casinos have a lot of money, surely they can ride out the rough patch.

Hemang A. Sutaria
Egg Harbor Township, NJ

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Bright Side Covid-19 Recent News

Bellmawr Native & Rutgers-Camden 2020 Grad, Joe Lutz, Works on the Front Line of COVID-19 Pandemic

Editor’s note: This article was written by Jeanne Long for Rutgers-Camden News Now

As a paramedic, Joseph Lutz plays a vital role in treating the sick and injured in emergencies, but during the coronavirus pandemic, his job has evolved into handling patient care in a hospital and performing an administrative role in setting up a field hospital in Secaucus.

When coronavirus cases began rising in New Jersey, the Rutgers University‒Camden biology student was mainly performing his usual paramedic duties at University Hospital in Newark, where he is employed.

By early April, the hospital’s emergency department was overwhelmed with patients with COVID-19, so the hospital re-assigned Lutz and other paramedics to assist nurses.

“I was working in our emergency dispatch center, when we received a call from hospital administration stating that the situation in the emergency department was dire,” says Lutz, of Bellmawr. “There were many extremely sick patients, and not enough nurses.”

That day, he spent eight hours attending to patients on ventilators.

Joe Lutz and his wife, Michelle, who is also a paramedic. (Photo credit: Rutgers-Camden News Now)

During the coronavirus pandemic, as the need skyrocketed for hospital beds for extremely sick patients, New Jersey received federal assistance to create the Federal Medical Shelter (FMS) located in Secaucus. Since early April, Lutz has been intimately involved in the operations of FMS and the North Region Medical Coordination Center, a space created after Sept. 11, 2001, to coordinate medical response to major medical situations. Lutz and his colleagues facilitated moving more than 250 patients from northern New Jersey hospitals to the shelter to make space for more seriously ill patients who required treatment in a hospital.

“There is no doubt that this process of opening up hospital beds for sicker patients saved lives,” says Lutz.

A Bellmawr native, Lutz lived in South Jersey until his first year of high school, when he and his mother moved to North Brunswick.

As a teenager, Lutz became interested in helping others. With his sharp technical skills, he became a website designer in high school, earning enough money to help his mom pay their living expenses. While he continued designing websites, he decided to drop out of school. In 2002, he earned his GED. 

After working as an emergency medical technician at Bellmawr EMS for several years, Lutz attended Camden County College to complete a paramedic training certificate program. His success in class inspired him to further his education, earning an associate’s degree in applied sciences as he continued working full-time as a paramedic at Bellmawr EMS. 

He returned to Camden County College in 2012 to study biology, but working full-time at night and attending classes full-time during the day, left him little time for sleep, so he dropped out for several years, got married, and then returned to school full-time. He completed his associate’s degree in biology in 2018, six years after he started.

He credits his Rutgers‒Camden education in giving him experience in research and data analysis.

Lutz was among the MCC health care professionals who appeared at Gov. Phil Murphy’s daily televised coronavirus briefing on May 9 to present information about the center’s operations and plasma treatment for COVID-19 patients at University Hospital. Lutz created two of the charts that the president/CEO of University Hospital, Shereef Elnahal, presented at Gov. Murphy’s briefing.

Joe Lutz (far left) at Gov. Murphy’s televised daily briefing on May 9, 2020 (Photo credit: Rutgers-Camden News Now)

“A few years ago, I would have been of little more use than providing patient care – which is also very important,” says Lutz. “Today, I am able to take on an administrative role and influence the care and outcomes of many more patients because of what I have learned from Rutgers‒Camden professors.

As Lutz receives his bachelor of science degree in biology and health science from Rutgers‒Camden, it is not the end of his formal education. He plans to attend medical school to become a physician.

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Covid-19 Recent News

Camden County Health Dept. Rectifies COVID-19 Cases From State

For the last two weeks the Camden County Department of Health (DOH) has been working to reconcile 897 cases of coronavirus (COVID-19), stretching back to late April, from the New Jersey Department of Health.

The cases have been caught in variety of reporting traps and are one of the significant reasons the state continues to report higher numbers for confirmed cases than the county.

The Camden County Health Department receives its data from the state’s Communicable Disease Reporting and Surveillance System (CDRS). After a resident is tested for COVID-19, their case data is first placed in the system by the lab that receives that test. After processing the test, the lab transmits the positive result into the CDRS system. However, once that information is confirmed, it can still lack significant primary identifying case structure information based on the lab data entry. The county DOH then takes whatever information the lab provides out of CDRS and moves forward with its contact tracing investigation, and per Attorney General guidelines, provides pertinent information to the computer aided dispatch system of local law enforcement. 

There are several interconnected events that have led to the confirmed case backlog:

  • New labs have created challenges in reporting statewide;  
  • Many of these cases were labeled in different jurisdictions;
  • Hundreds of cases were given to the Health Department from multiple unit dwellings with the same address without an apartment number; 
  • Many include individuals who were tested for COVID-19 multiple times; and
  • The state reporting system was never created for this level of use and has created delays in reporting.

Camden County Health Officer, Dr. Paschal Nwako, talked about the process and ensuring the integrity of reporting.

“We have gone through a variety of challenges in getting our numbers throughout this pandemic. This process was time consuming and warranted so we could confirm the proper case count that reflects the state’s numbers and harmonizes our metrics with our counterparts at the state,” Nwako said. “Moving forward, we will continue to update residents on a daily basis on what the labs and the state are providing us and continue to ensure the most accurate information can be found on our website throughout this pandemic.”