COVID-19: Schools preparing for closure, events postponed including Film Festival
By JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
One week after the first New Jersey patient was diagnosed with COVID-19, New Jersey officials said that as of today, March 11, the count is up to 23, with eight more cases confirmed today, according to state officials.
Although no one from Essex County has yet tested positive for the virus, Montclair organizations are beginning to cancel or postpone events, and school officials are asking parents to be prepared in the case of school closures.
Out of 80 tests conducted so far in New Jersey, 56 have tested negative for COVID-19. But testing is still limited while the state waits for commercial laboratories to come online. Currently only hospitals and doctors can request testing, and only for those with symptoms or known exposure to COVID-19.
The eight diagnosed today include four from Bergen County, two from Middlesex and two from Monmouth County. Other counties include Burlington, Hudson, Camden, Passaic and Union counties. Yesterday a man from Bergen County died from the virus, officials said.
Patients' ages have ranged from 17 to 66. And at least four had no known contact with a confirmed case, officials said.
State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said state officials met with local health officials and though cancellations of events, particularly sporting events, are being decided locally on a case-by-case basis, they are strongly encouraging the limiting of those events.
“Community spread is defined as a person-to-person transmission without exposure to a confirmed case or a nexus to an area where community spread has been identified,” Persichilli said. “Community spread indicates the Coronavirus is among us. We have the expectation that may be the case.”
The Montclair Public Schools have not closed at this point, but the district issued a statement today that schools could be closed at any time. On Friday, schools will be closed so that staff can prepare lessons online in preparation of closures.
“The schools are preparing for this, and we ask that you prepare for child care and any other concerns that may impact your family personally,” Interim SuperIntendent Nathan Parker said in a statement.
The district is also cancelling events in the schools that include community attendance for the month of March, with the technology department preparing for live-streaming and recording for families who would like to watch the productions virtually.
The following is a list of Montclair activities that have been postponed, rescheduled, or canceled so far due to concerns with COVID-19:
- Remote learning will be implemented in the Montclair Public Schools beginning Monday, March 16, for at least two weeks, and potentially well into April. All school district buildings will be closed, and all after-school activities will be suspended for the duration of the remote learning period.
- All scheduled public programs offered by Montclair Film, including the 2020 Montclair Film Festival, scheduled for May 1-10, as well as other film screenings, classes, and other events at MF's Cinema505 through March 19, have been postponed.
- The Montclair Literary Festival, scheduled for March 25-29, has been postponed until the week of Saturday, Sept. 12. The kickoff event scheduled for March 12, featuring author Colum McCann, has also been postponed.
- The Montclair Art Museum announced that it will close until March 31. All programs, including Yard School classes and outreach programs, will be postponed.
- The YMCA of Montclair will be closed indefinitely at both its Park Street and Geyer Family branches, beginning March 14.
- All programs at the Montclair Public Library have been canceled until the end of March.
- The town has canceled senior programs at Edgemont Park House.
- Essex County announced a host of closings to county events and buildings, including the Turtle Back Zoo, Codey Arena, county-owned golf courses, and senior buildings within the county park system, until March 27. The county's Cherry Blossom Bike Race and Cherry Blossom 5K, scheduled for April 4-5, has also been postponed. Additionally,County Sheriff Armando Fontoura has announced that foreclosures, evictions and sheriff’s sales will be suspended for the next two weeks.
- The College Board SATs scheduled for this Saturday, March 14, have been cancelled.
- The MHS Project Graduation dance party scheduled for Saturday, March 14 has been postponed. An alternate date is being determined at this time.
- Winter banquets for Montclair High School athletic teams have been canceled;
- Montclair Kimberley Academy spring break athletic team trips to Florida and Maryland have been canceled, and the school will reassess on March 20 whether spring teams can practice beginning the week of March 23.
- The elementary school fair organized by the PTA and scheduled for March 24 at Charles Bullock School has been canceled. They are attempting to put together a virtual fair instead.
- Catholic churches inside the Archdiocese of Newark will not celebrate Mass this Saturday or Sunday, March 14-15. Churches will remain open for prayer, but parishioners are asked to maintain a "prudent distance" from each other.
- Services at the First Congregational Church will be live-streamed on the church's Facebook page. All other communal meetings and programming is suspended until further notice.
- Worship services at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Montclair will be available only through livestream on its Facebook page, beginning today. In addition, UUCM has canceled its coffee hour and religious education programs.
- Bnai Keshet has canceled all non-essential gatherings including services, through the end of Passover, April 15.
- Shomrei Emunah has cancelled everything for this weekend, and will make further determinations as things develop. They are giving handouts to MESH, as they usually do, and will give the food at the door.
- Union Congregational Church will move on-line only activities beginning March 12. All worship services and meetings will be held online and all activities at the church building, including the nursery school program, are suspended until the current Coronavirus situation improves.
- Outpost in the Burbs shows scheduled for March 19, March 20 and April 4 have been postponed.
- All programming at the Montclair History Center has been postponed through the end of March.
- The Montclair High School Dance Company performances have been postponed for this coming weekend, March 13-15.
- St. Patrick's Day parades set for this weekend in West Orange and Newark have been postponed; the Newark parade will be rescheduled for September.