Co-authored by Maryanne Kelleher, Director, Partnership for a HealthierJC & Mike McLean, Immigrant Affairs Division Director
The Covid-19 pandemic is an historic threat to public health, and Jersey City Health & Human Services has worked tirelessly to defend the most vulnerable and ensure equitable access to services for all. We are forever indebted to the City employees and community partners who sacrificed, saved lives, and worked for a Healthier Jersey City. Let’s take a look back at the first 100 days of response, made possible with strong partnerships and a resilient Jersey City community.
Evidenced Commitment to Test and Eliminate Spread
In the first 100 days, Jersey City acted quickly to launch its own testing, resulting in more than 31,000 free nasal swab and antibody tests conducted at a variety of sites throughout the city.
With seven-days-a-week testing for twelve weeks, HHS staff from the City Clinic, Bureau of Healthy Homes, Senior Affairs, and JC Public Safety went above and beyond to bring testing to Pershing Field, Lincoln Park and the Mary McCloud Bethune Center, as well as to Nursing Homes, JC Housing Sites and Senior Housing Facilities.
Test scheduling and reporting of results was its own herculean effort, with tens of thousands of calls made by the Division of Injury Prevention, Disease Prevention, and City Clinic staff, each providing essential guidance.
In the first 100 days HHS saw 6,000 cases. The team conducted contact tracing for 3,000 cases with the help of the Divisions of Disease Prevention, Community Health and Wellness, City Clinic, and will continue these efforts into the foreseeable future.
HHS coordinated with local hospitals to report Covid cases and resolutions to the national CDSS database, and ensure that critical capacities were measured and maintained.
The Partnership for a HealthierJC coordinated donation deliveries for healthcare workers on the frontier of Covid response, including locally made masks and face shields from various sources including the Snyder High School Design Team and the JC Rapid Response Makers Group.
In the first 100 days, 120 essential businesses received free PPE. Frontline workers from 140 supermarkets, healthcare facilities and other local businesses have taken advantage of preferential testing offered by HealthierJC.
In Partnership With Community
Countless local restaurants donated 3,000 hot meals for Covid-positive residents, and drivers for the Via transportation alternative stepped up to deliver them. Restaurateurs from every corner of the city stepped up to feed our first responders and vulnerable community members. We are so proud of our restaurateurs for their generosity
More than 400 community partners received specialized community health education from the Division of Community Health & Wellness.
HealthierJC coordinated the delivery of free PPE to community organizations to use during park reopenings, community cleanups and public demonstrations.
The Division of Environmental Health worked with the Quality of Life Task Force to depended on local businesses and the public to follow social distancing measures with great cooperation and success. With the help of AngelaCares, over 600 grocery deliveries were made to food insecure seniors.
Prioritizing Vulnerable Community Members
In partnership with the Community Food Bank of NJ, 33,600 shelf stable meals were delivered to food insecure seniors, immigrants, and veterans in the first 100 days.
The Division of Food and Nutrition’s Meals on Wheels program swelled by 250% to serve 1,750 homebound seniors, with many wellness calls from both Food and Nutrition, and Senior Affairs.
Every nursing home and senior housing resident received free masks through a facilitated donation from the Utax, Ltd./Utax U.S.A. corporation. Every senior citizen engaged in our shopping trips were offered masks from the Snyder HS Design Team to ensure our most vulnerable were protected.
In partnership with the Jersey City Free Public Library, seniors, refugees, and other immigrant students were provided with free-internet ‘hotspot’ devices to maintain connections during social distancing.
Mental Health First Aiders made more than 1,200 referrals to bilingual mental health support and Quannet Health stepped up to provide free telepsychiatry services for JC residents during the height of Covid response.
Mobile showers for the homeless continued and saw a nearly 70% increase in usage, while HHS facilitated food deliveries to local pantries and shelters, made possible by generous donations from corporations like Goya Foods, CreamOLand and countless JC restauranteaurs.
Disseminating Essential Information
The Partnership for a HealthierJC designed and distributed more than 4,000 partner notifications on relief efforts, grants for community organizations, health bulletins, and public signage.
The Division of Immigrant Affairs conducted over 3,200 phone consultations with immigrants fearful of receiving COVID-related help and public benefits, and ensured that 100+ health bulletins were available in dozens of non-English languages.
Community Health & Wellness fielded upwards of 3,000 calls for information about how to protect against contagion and find support for the sick.
We continue to educate about social distancing and best practices to prevent spread as we transition from relief to recovery.
Jersey City’s Chief Health Officer recently obtained $137,000 new grant dollars from the National Association of County Health Officials to support the work of our epidemiologist and Communicable Disease Investigators.
HHS received $125,290 in grant funding from the New Jersey Department of Health for trauma recovery, and many more applications have been submitted for funding in violence prevention, immigration legal services, and other areas.
30 new partners joined the Partnership for a HealthierJC during Covid response, strengthening our mission to combat JC’s Urgent Health Priorities in community with one another.
Keeping Those Who Perished Top of Mind
We have mourned with our community as 486 Jersey City residents perished from Covid-19 in the first 100 days. As the JC community lost friends and family members, tragically due to Covid and were denied the ability to mourn in traditional ways, we worked to provide empathetic support and resources wherever possible. Our work continues with each of those lives lost foremost in mind. Progress came at a deep price and we will never forget that. As we soldiered on in community, flattening the curve, we were able to begin celebrating life and progress with area hospitals as more and more patients were released, recovered from Covid-19.
Looking to the Future
The successes of the first 100 days of Covid response were achieved as team effort, across City departments and with countless contributions from generous community members, corporate donors and restaurateurs.
These have been challenging days. Yet, with every challenge, we were accompanied by amazing partners, healthcare providers, colleagues and donors who worked with us and a #HealthierJC top of mind.
Covid-19 Response continues, and will for the long term. As we work to open, HHS continues to be vigilant, supporting local non-profits, senior citizens, neighborhood associations, community gardens, farmers markets and countless other community members to help navigate our new normal in the healthiest way possible.
With Sincere Gratitude, We Continue
The Department of Health & Human Services and Partnership for a HealthierJC would like to thank our colleagues from various other departments who supported our work during the height of the curve. We also commend our community for their generosity in the form of food, mask donations, and cooperative work for a #HealthierJC. We thank every single community member that works to follow guidelines to continue to flatten the curve and eliminate spread for a Healthier Jersey City. We remain, in this together, for the long haul.