Day: September 22, 2021

NJ Department of Health, Hamilton Twp. Officials say Water is Safe to Drink, But Urge Precautions During Ongoing Legionnaires’ Disease Investigation

September 22, 2021

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–Four cases of Legionnaires’ disease were reported in Hamilton Township, Mercer County between May-August 2021, along with an additional reported case from November 2020. The Hamilton Township Division of Health continues to work closely with the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) to investigate these cases as part of a larger investigation, which was initiated in August 2020 following a reported cluster of four cases. Hamilton Township reported two deaths in August 2020 and an additional death was reported late last month in an elderly township resident among the nine reported cases.

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia that people can get after breathing in aerosolized water (small droplets of water in the air) containing Legionella bacteria. Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease include cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches, and headaches which are similar to symptoms caused by other respiratory infections, including COVID-19. Most healthy people exposed to Legionella do not become ill. However, people who are 50 years or older, especially those who smoke cigarettes, or those with certain medical conditions, including weakened immune systems, chronic lung disease or other chronic health conditions, are at increased risk for Legionnaires’ disease.

Legionnaires’ disease is treatable with antibiotics so it is important that anyone who thinks they have symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease contact their health care provider and seek medical evaluation. Healthcare providers use chest x-rays or physical exams to check for pneumonia. Your provider may also order tests on a sample of urine and sputum (phlegm) to see if your lung infection is caused by Legionella bacteria.

Health officials are urging residents and business owners in Hamilton Township to take actions to reduce the risk of Legionella growth in their household and building plumbing. Recommendations for homeowners and building owners are available below. It can be possible for Legionella to enter buildings (including homes) when receiving treated drinking water. Health officials are partnering with NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and Trenton Water Works (TWW) to monitor for Legionella in the Hamilton Township water distribution system owned and operated by TWW. While water samples collected at TWW treatment plant and central pumping station have consistently shown no presence of Legionella, water samples collected from homes and businesses in Hamilton Township served by TWW, have identified the presence of Legionella. There is concern that Legionella may be present in other buildings and homes in the area. 

“The water is safe to drink, but there are basic precautions that residents can take to help protect themselves – such as regularly flushing water at their taps and maintaining their hot water tank,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Tina Tan. “Additionally, home A/C units do not use water to cool, so these home units do not aerosolize water and are not a risk for Legionella growth.”

“We continue to work with our partners at the New Jersey Department of Health and Hamilton Township to empower residents in Hamilton and in our service area on how to protect themselves and their families from Legionnaires’ disease,” said Mark A. Lavenberg, Director of the City of Trenton’s Department of Water and Sewer, which operates Trenton Water Works. “To that end, starting on October 1, Trenton Water Works is launching a public awareness campaign to educate our service-area consumers on this critical public health issue.”

Hamilton Township Division of Health and NJDOH want to remind healthcare providers to maintain a high index of suspicion for Legionnaires’ disease when evaluating patients for community-acquired and healthcare-associated pneumonia, especially among residents of Hamilton Township. This is important to ensure patients receive appropriate and timely treatment.

“I want to thank NJDEP and NJDOH for their involvement in studying the frustrating frequency of Legionnaires’ disease cases in Hamilton over the past decade and working with TWW and our Division of Health to keep the residents of Hamilton safe,” said Mayor Jeff Martin. “Clean and safe drinking water is a human right – one that we will continue to fight to make sure all residents can comfortably know they have access to.” 


According to NJDOH, residents can follow recommended best practices to reduce Legionella growth in their household water. For more information on best practices, please visit NJDOH’s Legionella webpage at:

  • Let your faucets and showers run for at least 3 minutes when they have been out of use for more than a week. Care should be taken to minimize exposure to splashing and aerosol generation, for example, leaving the room while the water is running.
  •  Thoroughly clean or replace your shower heads and faucet aerators (screens) 3–4 times per year. To disinfect, use a 1:100 diluted solution of regular household bleach (1/4 cup bleach to 1 gallon of water). For concentrated bleach use 3 tablespoons for 1 gallon. Follow instructions found on the back of the bottle for safe use including only using disinfection products in a ventilated area.
  • Drain and flush your hot water tank every 6–12 months. Consider hiring a licensed plumbing professional to perform this.
  •  Clean and/or replace all water filters per manufacturer instructions, such as whole house (e.g., water softeners) and point-of-use filters (e.g., built-in refrigerator filters).
  • Remove, shorten, and/or regularly flush existing dead legs (a section of pipe capped off with little to no water flow). For future renovations, ensure your plumber avoids creating dead legs.
  •  Keep your hot water tank set to a minimum of 120°F. This temperature will reduce Legionella growth while minimizing risk of hot water burns. Higher temperatures can further reduce the risk of Legionella growth, but you should first install a mixing valve to prevent hot water burns when using the water. Check with manufacturer recommendations prior to raising the temperature.
  • Medical devices and portable humidifiers should be operated, cleaned, and disinfected per manufacturer instructions. Do not use tap water if sterile water is recommended.
  •  Drain garden hoses and shut off the water line when not in use for the season.
  •  Maintain chemical levels in your hot tub per manufacturer recommendations.
  •  Avoid high-risk activities. If you are at an increased risk for Legionnaires’ disease, consider avoiding power washing, or similar activities, which may generate increased amounts of aerosols or mist.


  • Complete this quick yes/no worksheet to determine if your building, or certain devices in your building, need a Water Management Program. Resources to help you develop a Water Management Program and for Legionella control in common sources of exposure are available at NJ Department of Health’s Legionella webpage.
  •  Store hot water at temperatures above 140°F and ensure hot water in circulation does not fall below 120°F (or at highest temperature allowable by local regulations and codes). Install thermostatic mixing valves as close as possible to fixtures to prevent scalding while permitting circulation hot water temperatures above 120°F.
  • Clean and maintain water system components, such as thermostatic mixing valves, aerators, showerheads, hoses, filters, storage tanks, and expansion tanks, regularly per manufacturer instructions.
  • Flush hot and cold water at all points of use (faucets, showers, drinking fountains) at least weekly to replace the water that has been standing in the pipes. Healthcare settings and facilities that house vulnerable populations should flush at least twice a week.
  • Remove dead legs or, where unavoidable, make them as short as possible (a section of pipe capped off with little or no water flow)Where a dead leg cannot be avoided, it should be flushed regularly to avoid water stagnation. This may require the installation of a drain valve.
  • Monitor water quality parameters such as temperature, disinfectant residuals, and pH regularly. Adjust frequency of monitoring based on stability of values. For example, increase frequency of monitoring if there is a high degree of measurement variability.
  • Safely operate and conduct regular maintenance of cooling towers to protect staff, visitors, and the adjacent community from exposure to Legionella. Use a Water Management Program to establish, track, and improve operation and maintenance activities. Resources to help you develop a Water Management Program for your cooling tower are available at the bottom of this section.

Follow recommendations from the NJ Department of Health when reopening your facility following a prolonged shutdown or reduced operation due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Recommendations are available at:


NJDOH receives approximately 250–350 reports of Legionnaires’ disease each year reported throughout New Jersey. Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia (lung infection) caused by the bacteria Legionella. Legionella is a type of bacteria found naturally in freshwater environments such as lakes and streams and becomes a health concern when it enters and grows inside human-made water systems. People can get Legionnaires’ disease by breathing in aerosolized (small droplets) water containing Legionella. Aerosolized water can come from plumbing systems and devices such as cooling towers (air-conditioning units for large buildings), hot tubs, cooling misters, and decorative fountains. Less commonly, people can get sick by aspiration of tap water containing Legionella. This happens when water accidently goes into the lungs while drinking (“goes down the wrong pipe”). People at increased risk of aspiration include those with swallowing difficulties. Home A/C units do not use water to cool, so these home units do not aerosolize water and are not a risk for Legionella growth. Legionnaires’ disease is generally not spread person to person.

Point Pleasant Beach Community Rallies in Face of Regional Blood Shortage, More than 100 Blood Products Collected to Support Local Youth’s Bone Marrow Transplant 

September 22, 2021

POINT PLEASANT BEACH, NJ (OCEAN)–Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) hosted a community blood drive on Thursday, Sept. 2 at the Ocean Fire Company # 1 on Arnold Avenue to benefit Giovanni Taurozzi, a local youth who is undergoing a bone marrow transplant from a donor that is not related to him.  The young man’s Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia treatment requires daily blood and platelet transfusions. 

“Most people are aware of the need for blood reserves to support emergency care, such as trauma, as well as for surgeries.  However, patients receiving treatment for cancer of all types, but especially blood cancers, use more blood products than any of these other categories,” said Sally Wells, Business Development Liaison at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.

“Throughout the COVID 19 pandemic maintaining an adequate supply of blood and platelets for our patients has been a tremendous challenge,” said Wells.  “Having such a successful blood drive only a few short hours after Hurricane Ida was quite an accomplishment. I have learned that when the public understands the need, they respond, and they respond in force, as was the case with this drive.   Everyone worked together to make sure there would be blood and platelets available over the long Labor Day holiday weekend.”

The blood drive was organized by a friend of the Taurozzi family, Jennifer Dearborn, and a dynamic group of dedicated volunteers.  The event collected more than 100 blood products thanks to the selfless work of these volunteer and the donors they inspired to participate. 

“My family and I extend our heartfelt thanks to all in response to the recent successful blood drive, said Giovanni Taurozzi. “Our community comes together in a big way wherever there is a need and blood product supplies for emergency and daily needs are low.”

“Special thanks to Jennifer Dearborn, for spearheading the drive, Mike Brodeur and Fire Co #1 providing the space, countless businesses – local and county wide, who provided food and treats, hung a flyer or posted about the event, our volunteers and RWJUH Blood Service team who kept it running smoothly, added Taruozzi. “Lastly and most importantly, thank you to the donors who not only came from Point Pleasant Beach, but surrounding towns, as well as some from a great distance. Without them all of this would not have been possible.”

Local business that supported the effort included Joe Leones Italian specialties, Lenny’s Colonial Market and Sweet Revenge Chocolates, who generously donated of food and treats for the donors.  Borden’s Stationery and Office Supplies and Blazing Visuals helped with marketing, and the Point Beach Fire Company and Police Department provided outstanding support. 

Trenton And Hightstown Men Among 11 Indicted In Investigation That Uncovered Alleged “Hit Squad” Of Inmates Who Assaulted Other Inmates

September 22, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck today announced the indictment of an alleged local leader of the Latin Kings street gang and 10 current and former inmates under his command who allegedly formed a “hit squad” within the prison system to commit assaults on behalf of the gang.

Frank Blake, aka “Lafay,” 33, of Hillside, N.J., an alleged leader of the Elizabeth, N.J., chapter of the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation (ALKQN) street gang, was initially charged in April 2021 along with eight other alleged members of ALKQN who allegedly conspired to carry out assaults on behalf of the gang in the state prison system. They were charged at that time with a brutal attack on an inmate in New Jersey State Prison in Trenton and a planned assault on another inmate in Northern State Prison in Newark that was prevented by the New Jersey Department of Corrections (DOC).

The Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) obtained a state grand jury indictment on Tuesday, Sept. 14, charging defendants with four more vicious assaults in New Jersey State Prison in Trenton. The indictment charges the nine original defendants plus two additional alleged ALKQN gang members. The indictment was sealed pending the arrest of defendant Maurice Diaz Young, 35, of Trenton, N.J., who was arrested today.

The indictment is the result of an investigation by members of the DOC Special Investigations Division (SID) and OPIA Corruption Central Squad. The investigation revealed that Blake and inmate Alexander Chludzinski, aka “D Noble,” 27, of Phillipsburg, N.J., allegedly discussed going to the homes of DOC-SID investigators leading this investigation to commit violence against them.

“We will not tolerate gang-related violence in our state prisons,” said Acting Attorney General Bruck. “This indictment reaffirms our commitment to ensuring the safety of both inmates and correctional officers behind the prison walls. I am especially grateful to our Office of Public Integrity & Accountability and DOC’s Special Investigations Division for their partnership on this investigation.”

“We will continue to work with the Department of Corrections to neutralize the dangerous and corrosive influence of gangs in our prisons and protect the people who are held in state custody,” said OPIA Executive Director Thomas Eicher. “We will not allow gang leaders to orchestrate violence between inmates and undermine the security of our prison system.”

“Central to our mission is a commitment to operate safe and humane facilities,” said New Jersey Department of Corrections Acting Commissioner Victoria Kuhn, Esq. “We have zero tolerance for those that compromise the integrity of our efforts and applaud the work of the NJDOC’s Special Investigations Division and the OPIA in bringing these individuals to justice.”

The indictment is posted online at: Blake et al Indictment

The following 11 men are charged with second-degree conspiracy, and nine of them—Blake, Diaz Young, Lago, Garcia, Chludzinski, Washington, Reyes, Zarate, and Cardona—are charged with first-degree gang criminality. Blake is also charged with first-degree promoting organized street crime.

  1. Frank Blake, aka “Lafay,” 33, of Hillside N.J.
  2. Eduardo Lago, aka “King Bay Bay,” 28, of Newark, N.J.
  3. Roberto Garcia, aka “Taz,” 25, of Carteret, N.J.
  4. William Figueroa, aka “King Stitch,” 27, of Hightstown, N.J.
  5. Alexander Chludzinski, aka “D Noble,” 27, of Phillipsburg, N.J.
  6. Kevin Washington, aka “King Jafi,” 32, of Atlantic City, N.J.
  7. Andy Reyes, aka “Chango,” 25, of Somerset, N.J.
  8. James Zarate, aka “King Samurai,” 33, of Randolph, N.J.
  9. Larry Cardona, aka “King Legend,” 28, of Elizabeth, N.J.
  10. Maurice Diaz Young, aka “King Onyx,” 35, of Trenton, N.J.
  11. Juan Colon, 53, of Trenton, N.J.

The indictment alleges the following acts of violence and attempted acts of violence against inmates in the state prison system:

  • It is alleged that at Blake’s direction—and with Figueroa, Reyes and Diaz Young participating in planning the assault—Garcia and Lago assaulted an inmate in the prison yard of New Jersey State Prison in Trenton on Sept. 28, 2020, punching and kicking him in the head, and causing him to suffer respiratory failure and a traumatic brain injury.
  • Between December 2020 and April 2021, Blake allegedly conspired with and directed Chludzinski, Reyes, Washington, Zarate, and Cardona in planning an assault on an inmate at Northern State Prison in Newark. DOC-SID investigators learned of the alleged plot and placed the targeted inmate in protective custody to prevent the attempted assault.
  • It is alleged that on Oct. 18, 2019, Chludzinski attacked an inmate with a makeshift weapon known as a “shank” in a shower facility in New Jersey State Prison in Trenton, causing the victim to suffer multiple puncture wounds.
  • In April 2020, Reyes, Garcia, and a member of a different street gang identified in the indictment as “Individual #1” allegedly planned that Garcia would attack an inmate in New Jersey State Prison in Trenton on behalf of Individual #1, in exchange for which Individual #1 would attack an inmate who was targeted by Reyes and Garcia. On April 5, 2020, Individual #1 allegedly carried out his attack in the prison yard, repeatedly punching and kicking the victim in the head, causing him to be hospitalized with head trauma. The next day, April 6, 2020, Garcia allegedly attacked the second victim in the prison yard, punching and kicking him in the head and upper body, resulting in bodily injury.
  • It is alleged that Zarate and Cardona attacked an inmate on April 21, 2021 in the prison yard of New Jersey State Prison in Trenton, repeatedly punching and kicking the victim in the head and body, resulting in significant bodily injury.

The indictment charges Diaz Young and Colon with the second-degree crime of solicitation or recruitment to join a criminal street gang for allegedly soliciting an inmate to join ALKQN and participate in criminal conduct on behalf of the gang in November and December 2020.

Blake and Chludzinski are charged with second-degree hindering apprehension or prosecution, third-degree terroristic threats, and fourth-degree obstruction for the alleged threats of violence against DOC-SID members investigating this case. Cardona, Chludzinski, Reyes, and Zarate are charged with possessing shanks, and Cardona is charged with possessing a cell phone in prison.

When Blake was arrested on April 22, 2021, investigators executed a search warrant at his home, seizing a .45-caliber pistol, a .357-caliber revolver loaded with hollow-point bullets, a 9mm pistol, an illegal large-capacity magazine, additional bullets, over one-half pound of methamphetamine, and two digital scales. For those items, he is charged with second-degree possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, second-degree possession of a weapon during commission of a drug offense, first-degree possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, and other drug and weapons offenses.

Deputy Attorneys General Colin J. Keiffer and Travis Miscia are prosecuting the case and presented the indictment to the state grand jury for the OPIA Corruption Bureau, under the supervision of OPIA Corruption Bureau Chief Peter Lee and OPIA Deputy Director Anthony Picione. They were assisted by Deputy Attorney General Heather Hausleben and other members of the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau.

Acting Attorney General Bruck thanked all of the investigators and detectives who conducted the investigation for the DOC Special Investigations Division and the OPIA Corruption Central Squad. For security reasons, they are not being named individually. He also thanked the New Jersey State Police TEAMS North Unit, Division of Criminal Justice Cyber Crimes Unit, Union County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Division, and Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Intelligence Unit for their assistance in the investigation.

The first-degree charges of gang criminality carries a sentence of 15 to 30 years in state prison. The other first-degree charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $200,000. The sentences for gang criminality and promoting organized street crime must be served consecutively to the sentence for any underlying offense. Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000. Possession of a weapon as a convicted felon carries a mandatory period of parole ineligibility of five years. Third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000, while fourth-degree charges carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law. 

Defense Attorneys

For Blake: Thomas R. Ashley, Esq., Newark, N.J.

For Garcia: Robin Kay Lord, Esq., Trenton, N.J.

For Figueroa: Assistant Deputy Public Defender Matthew Mordas, Mercer County.

For Chludzinski: Peter V. Abatemarco, Esq., Lambertville, N.J.

For Washington: Tina M. Frost, Esq., West Windsor, N.J.

For Cardona: Assistant Deputy Public Defender Olivia J. Moorhead, Mercer County.

For Other Defendants: Undetermined.

Concerned Parents Protest Robbinsville High School COVID-19 Closure And The Way It Was Handled

September 22, 2021

ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)—A group of concerned parents gathered in protest in front of Robbinsville High School this morning about the school’s COVID-19 closure and how it was handled. The Robbinsville High School was closed on Friday September 17, 2021 after the School District consulted with the State Department of Health in an emergency meeting that included physicians, epidemiologists and other experts in the area of COVID-19. The health experts strongly advised the Robbinsville School District to close the high school for five days immediately as stated by, Brian J. Betze, Superintendent of Robbinsville Public Schools.

Rich Ferm one of concerned parents told in a statement, “This is about getting our kids back in school and staying in school, including sports, bands and activities. This is about holding our district accountable to higher standards and better protocol when dealing with covid and contact tracing etc.”

“We are not against vaccination. We are not against quarantining. We want proper protocol and proper leadership and accountability. We want awareness for the mental health of our children. We never want what happened on Friday to happen again to our kids. It’s about asking for more sensible quarantining to reduce the spread as in quarantining any close contact regardless of vax status.  It’s has been proven in just three short weeks of school how the Admins poor strategy has failed our kids. And how the actions of one superintendent on Friday affected an entire community and is damaging so many kids.” according to Rich Ferm.

The protesting parents had seven points of concern they wanted the public to be aware of including:

  1. No school should be closed right now.  Period.
  2. The mitigation measures put forth by the school are subpar.  Basically, they’re ridiculous and don’t exist. They are hiding behind the guidelines put forth by Jill Swanson at the county that are nonsensical.  It is a reward system for vaccinated students that does not keep anyone safe, even the vaccinated.
  3. This was not a political issue or vaccine issue until Mr. Betze made it one in his email and video, along with his incorrect statistics.
  4. Children’s mental health are at risk now more than ever.
  5. There needs to be checks and balances as to the decision process of our superintendent.  He is going rogue.  Where is the control of the BOE.
  6. We are very sensitive regarding the sick student and pray for their recovery. But the school district did not actively implement a system to keep the students safe by only quarantining unexposed unvaccinated students.
  7. The high school needs to reopen Monday.  And sports and activities need to reconvene -especially outside that never should have been cancelled.  Senior nights need to be rescheduled and Homecoming should proceed as planned.

According to Ferm, he stated that as the last report there were 22 infected with COVID. When doing contact tracing before shutdown , the Super only quarantined the unvaccinated kids. That’s not following any protocol or science as vax kids got infected too as well as contact traced kids.

Ferm, also said that, 84% are vaccinated in high school.

According to Danielle DeSimone, “The tipping point for many of us here today was the manner in which the decision to close the high school was executed on Friday evening.  Some of our athletes were pulled from the field with roughly 5 minutes left in their game. Our football team was pulled from the field in Hightstown and then left standing there without busses to transport them back to RHS. We know tough decisions must be made as we make our way through this pandemic. But those decisions need to be executed better. Our kids have endured so much loss these past 18 months and how everything unfolded Friday night added to that loss and disappointment. “

“Additionally, we believe we need smarter mitigation when a positive case occurs in order to better control the outbreak. Contrary to the narrative that is being pushed by some individuals in our town, we are in support of public health measures and effective mitigation to protect our students both physically and mentally.” said, DeSimone.

Louise Shea said, “We are not a group of anti-safety, anti-vaccine, anti-mask parents. We are concerned group pushing for better mitigation measures to be implemented to keep our students and staff safe and schools open.  The current guidelines put forth from the state and county are failing- cohort quarantines do not work.  Contact tracing does.  We want better management of protocol, leadership and better implementation of uniform standards that are readily available for parents and students to access.  We need our administrators to lead by example and be transparent and all on the same page.”

Robbinsville Township Mayor Dave Fried released a statement this afternoon, “Some parents and students are very upset, and rightfully so. While some mistakes were clearly made in the execution and communication phases of the district’s plan to go back to remote learning until September 27, it takes a big person to be able to admit that … and Superintendent Brian Betze did that (Tuesday). None of us are perfect. Owning your mistakes, apologizing, and learning from them so it doesn’t happen again is the professional thing to do. We have made tremendous improvements in our schools and we will continue to work together to make our schools the best they can be, which includes the mental health of all our students. Let’s remember we are all in this together.”

Davena Moore a concerned mother with 3 children in the school system said, “The narrative gets muddied when politics, bullying, and hate fill the gaps of voices. Us parents have been directly asking for clear health metrics/protocols since the end of last school year, in line with the increased covid immunity within Robbinsville. In anticipation that this virus like others, mutate, strong leadership indicators would have had a clear plan of action. Our requests were ignored.”

“Failure to do so ultimately resulted in damage control from knee jerk reactions, more unfortunate community division, and significant mental health stresses. Robbinsville can avoid negative press through immediate process transparency, changed safety protocols that do not put students/staff unnecessarily at risk irregardless of vaccination status. The school bubble was broken this week during virtual learning a sub-par education. Competing with open schools puts our students at a distinct disadvantage when our current metrics have us opening and closing as the year progresses. This is a health concern that we believe we can all get behind!” said, Moore.

Letter sent to Robbinsville Parents and Students yesterday September 21, 2021 by Brian J. Betze, Superintendent of Robbinsville Public Schools:

As you are aware, due to an outbreak of COVID-19 cases in our community, as Superintendent of the Robbinsville Public Schools, I made a decision to close our high school from Monday, September 20, 2021, through Friday, September 24, 2021.

Let me assure you, this decision was not made lightly. Unfortunately, due to the fast-moving chain of events on Friday, our plan’s execution and communication phases could have been done better and may have caused unnecessary confusion for some parents and students. For that, I apologize and take full responsibility. The situation abruptly impacted sports and other extracurricular events on Friday and Saturday. While we intended to ensure the safety of everyone involved, we should have been more sensitive to the impact of these actions. The buck stops with me, and you have my word that we can – and will – do better. 

On Friday afternoon, the West Windsor Health Department, which serves Robbinsville and Hightstown, confirmed that the number of COVID cases in Robbinsville High School – as well as the Township at large – had spiked over a very short period of time. As a result, we agreed to have an emergency meeting with the State Department of Health – a call that included several physicians, epidemiologists, and other experts in this area. After reviewing our numbers and the overall situation, they strongly advised us to close our high school for five school days immediately.

Each outbreak is unique. The following facts and data were taken into consideration which is why the state-level health officials were involved:

  • Robbinsville Township has the most positive number of COVID per 100,000 residents in Mercer County.
  • Total cases were increasing significantly. During the first week of September, there were five confirmed cases in the high school. As of last Friday, there were 22 confirmed cases with more tests results pending.
  • In addition, there were 36 pending PCR tests, and 85 students were in quarantine.
  • We had three unrelated confirmed outbreaks (three or more students) at RHS; state guidance from last year states that two unrelated cases would have initiated remote learning.
  • Due to the volume of cases, contract tracers were unable to keep up with determining where and how students were getting infected (at school versus not at school). 
  • Our high school positive infection rate of students is 2.10%, with 36 tests pending. An infection rate above 1.0% is considered cause to close a school and the metric we used last year. We are more than double that rate, with additional cases pending.
  • The disease is impacting both vaccinated and unvaccinated students and staff.

Considering these factors and the interpretation and guidance of numerous health experts, I believe we made the right decisions for our students, staff, and the entire community.

While the high school is closed this week, our nursing staff is working diligently with Mercer County, state, and local health officials on further contract tracing and ways to get students back in class as safely and quickly as possible.

The high school administration is rescheduling as many, if not all, athletic and extracurricular activities that were canceled. Practices will begin this coming Saturday, and we fully intend to reopen our high school by Monday, September 27. We all want our students and staff back in person and with their peers as quickly and safely as possible.

At this time, our elementary and middle school buildings are open and continue to follow all applicable local, state, and CDC health guidelines. There are no plans to close Sharon Elementary or Pond Road Middle School.

We started this school year focused on mental health and committed to providing resources for all students who need help. We understand the impact COVID-19 has had on students, staff, and their families. Events like this do not make it any easier. Please understand, these are not arbitrary decisions. We want nothing more than to offer a vibrant and productive educational experience. Sadly, closing our high school for five days was the right choice at this time. We realize some parents and students may not be happy with the decision, but our number one goal is to ensure that we do everything possible to keep our schools and community safe.

Looking back over the past couple of days, there are many lessons learned. Some issues should have been handled differently. As the District’s Superintendent, I accept responsibility for the decisions and what went wrong. Looking forward, I can assure you that all of our teams are working hard to meet the needs of our students. If you feel your child needs help in a particular area, please reach out to their teachers, guidance counselors, nurses, building administrators, or my office.

Finally, for any family that may be eligible and interested, there is a free vaccine clinic at Pond Road Middle School on Thursday, September 23, from 4-7 p.m.

As always, we encourage productive dialogue and a strong relationship with all who are part and engaged in our school community.

Working together, we can get through this. 

Sea Girt Police Officer Strikes Building With Vehicle

September 22, 2021

SEA GIRT, NJ (MONMOUTH)–A borough police officer was not seriously injured when he struck a building with his patrol vehicle while on duty yesterday afternoon, and the cause of the collision is under investigation, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey announced Wednesday.

Shortly after 5:45 p.m. on Tuesday, the 27-year-old Class II officer was responding to a first-aid call originating from the 1000 block of Ocean Avenue when his 2019 Ford Explorer left the roadway and drove onto a property on the 100 block of Beacon Boulevard, according to the preliminary investigation.
The vehicle struck a cottage on the property and came to rest after striking a trailer. No one was home at the property at the time, and no civilians were injured.

The officer was transported to Jersey Shore University Medical Center Trauma Unit in Neptune City, where he agreed to provide a blood sample and turn over his cell phone to investigators with the Monmouth County Serious Collision Analysis Response Team (SCART). Monmouth County Fleet Services towed the vehicle back to the Monmouth County Central Motor Pool for further investigation.
The officer, who joined the Sea Girt Police Department in June, has since been discharged from the hospital.

Trenton Shooting Victim Reported In Stable Condition

September 22, 2021

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Trenton Police, Trenton Fire, TEMS and Capital Health Paramedics responded to the area of 160 Oakland Street near Hoffman Avenue for a gun shot victim last night September 21, 2021 at 10:36 p.m. The person was quickly transported to the Trauma Center at Capital Health Regional Medical Center for treatment arriving at the hospital trauma unit 10:51 p.m. Trenton Police report that the person was shot twice and listed in stable condition. No further details are available at this time.