Small businesses in some rural sections of South Jersey should reopen whenever it’s deemed safe. To delay this with a one size fits all plan will cause unnecessary economic damage.
You won’t hear this from some in the media. They’re parroting a “one outbreak, one strategy” talking point. But what this point of view conveniently overlooks is the unique facts on the ground here in South Jersey:
- South Jersey is more rural and less densely populated.
- The hardest hit counties continue to be within close proximity to New York City.
- Gloucester, Atlantic, Cumberland, Salem and Cape May each have less than 2,067 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
- Salem and Cape May counties each have less than 600 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
- COVID-19 related deaths are less than 135 in Gloucester, Atlantic, Cumberland, Salem and Cape May.
- COVID-19 related deaths in Salem, Cumberland and Cape May are below 70.
It’s understandable that in Salem County the Freeholders there want to reopen small businesses as soon as possible. They made a strong case for this in a bipartisan letter sent to the governor. The Freeholders stated the following:
- The virus has infected less than .6 percent of Salem County’s population.
- Salem County is primarily rural.
- 96 percent of business in Salem County are small businesses.
- Unemployment in Salem County has risen from 5.3 percent to a current 15.6 percent.
“This pandemic has hit us extremely hard,” the Salem County Freeholders wrote, referring to their agriculture and small business-based economy.
Those who opposed Salem County’s reopening say the coronavirus is spreading faster in South Jersey. However, what they did not mention is that several South Jersey counties took longer than their northern peers to get drive-thru testing sites operational, caused by a lack of testing kits, in some instances.
So, naturally, a spike in cases would be expected in South Jersey as more testing became available.
The naysayers also pointed to outbreaks among farm workers in Salem County.
But what was not mentioned is that the state department of health went to these farms in several counties, including Gloucester County, and tested all of the migrant farm workers, regardless of them showing any symptoms of the coronavirus. Dozens of farm workers were found to be asymptomatic at one South Harrison Township farm, the Gloucester Daily News reported.
It’s unknown how many people already recovered from the virus. Widespread antibody testing has not occurred in South Jersey, but what happened in South Harrison should raise some questions.
Would the state department of health find similar results if it randomly tested other essential businesses such as a local Walmart or Amazon warehouse?
This only shows what the science and news headlines already suggest: Portions of the population show little or no symptoms of the virus. It does not discredit a regional reopening plan, which other states such as Pennsylvania have opted to implement.
Reopening small businesses in areas of the state least harmed by the virus makes sense, if the science dictates it’s safe to do so.
The one state, one strategy – kumbaya thinking – will only result in unnecessary damage to small businesses.