Vernon Township Mayor’s Updated Statement on the Coronavirus

Posted: April 6, 2020

Vernon Family,

Effective yesterday at 8:00 p.m., Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, New Jersey State Director of Emergency Management, gave me and other New Jersey mayors a new tool that we could use in our ongoing efforts to keep our residents safe and to reduce/prevent the potential for the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Under the authority granted me by Colonel Callahan’s Administrative Order No. 2020-8, I have issued an order that restricts any Vernon Township located “hotel, motel, guest house, or private residence, or parts thereof” from accepting “new transient guests or seasonal tenants” after April 6, 2020 at 4:00 p.m., until further notice from the Vernon mayor’s office.

This restricts Airbnb, other online marketplaces, and any other organization or individual from arranging or offering short-term rental lodging in Vernon Township.

I issued this order out of the concerns about an influx of new visitors to our town during the current public health emergency. Although Vernon Township ordinarily welcomes all visitors, at this time we must take all available steps to enforce social distancing recommendations and limit nonessential travel to our town.

We have also been vigilant in our ongoing monitoring of Maple Grange Park and the two key Appalachian Trail entry points in our town—i.e., the boardwalk section off of Route 517 and the “Stairway to Heaven” entry point off of Route 94.

Since we are not able to monitor Maple Grange Park on a 24/7 basis, I can’t say that there are no social distance violations, however, what I can say is that I or others who have focused on monitoring this park have concluded that users are following the social distancing guidelines. When users have been observed interacting in a group, inquiries have found that they have been primarily family members using the park as a way of getting out of the house for some mental/emotional relief.

Some enhanced monitoring by the Vernon Police Department seems to have significantly reduced the number (but not all) of individuals who are choosing to ignore the electronic “trail closed” sign and the snow fencing blocking easy entry to the boardwalk section of the Appalachian Trail on Route 517. To the extent that our resources will enable us to do so, we will continue our vigilance here also.

While the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the New Jersey State Park Service have not formally “closed” access to the trail at the “Stairway to Heaven” entry point off of Route 94, they have assigned park stewards who are limiting the number of individuals who can access the trail from this location at any single time, and are specifically advising all trail walkers to practice social distancing.

From my prospective, this coronavirus is no joke.

There is a growing body of evidence that people who are infected with the COVID-19 virus can spread the virus before they develop symptoms or in the absence of symptoms. And, because the CDC believes that wearing a cloth face covering may help prevent the spread of the virus by those individuals who are infected and do not know it, during this weekend they recommended the use of cloth face coverings in community settings.

In addition, the CDC has said that during the coming months, they believe that most of the U.S. population will be exposed to this virus, and that they expect more illnesses, hospitalizations and unfortunately deaths.

As I said, this coronavirus is no joke.

As to our local situation, as of today, we in Vernon Township have had 27 confirmed COVID-19 cases (9% of the county’s total of 301) and 3 COVID-19 related deaths. One of those deaths came today—a 76-year-old male.

We Americans are a very self-reliant and individualistic group of people, however, reducing the spread of this coronavirus is not something that we can do alone; we must all accept our responsibility to do our part by practicing social distancing, avoiding large crowds and gatherings, practicing good hand hygiene, and staying home if we are sick.

As your mayor, I will continue to make all reasonable and appropriate use of every tool that’s available to me to do what I can to help keep you safe, and to ensure that Vernon Township plays its role in breaking the back of this awful virus.

#VERNON CARES - #VERNON STRONG!

Howard L. Burrell, Mayor