Positive COVID-19 case may have attended WMHS play last week, second case confirmed

West Milford. Local health officials said Saturday that a resident who tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and is hospitalized, may have attended a play at the high school last week. Officials are trying to determine who the individual may have had contact with prior to becoming ill.

21 Mar 2020 | 08:06

Officials from the school district and Office of Emergency Manangement said Saturday that a 42-year-old man who tested positive for the COVID-19 virus March 20 is believed to have attended a play at the high school last week.

“We are working with the OEM to notify people who might have come into contact with the affected individual, either on or off school grounds,” officials said in a NIXLE alert sent out Saturday evening. “There are many rumors surrounding this and, while we cannot address each rumor, we believe that the person attended the WMHS school play last Thursday. We will contact people who sat within six feet for more than 10 minutes.”

The unidentified man is currently hospitalized at Chilton Medical Center in Pompton Plains, where he was tested on Friday and confirmed to have the virus, according to officials.

HIPAA privacy prohibits the school district or township from releasing the name of the person.

Mayor Michele Dale said that there is also a second case of a 26-year-old male who has also tested positive for the virus, and is the second confirmed case in the township.

It is not known how the man became exposed to the virus, and he is not a healthcare worker, she said.

That individual is not hospitalized, and is recovering at this time, she said.

As in the first case, local health officials are tracking the man’s movements and contacts prior to getting sick to see who else could be at risk.

The announcements come the same day as Gov. Phil Murphy ordered residents in the state to remain indoors except to go out for medicine or food.

The move expands the previous “strongly encouraged” curfew of 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. to a full 24 hours.

In a televised news conference Saturday, Murphy outlined “essential” people and industries that could remain out and about, but ordered all other businesses and personal “gatherings” banned in an effort to slow the spread of the disease.

According to the state, Murphy signed Executive Order No. 107, directing all residents to stay at home until further notice.

The order provides for certain exceptions, such as obtaining essential goods or services, seeking medical attention, visiting family or close friends, reporting to work, or engaging in outdoor activities.

“From day one, we’ve made a commitment to be guided by the facts and take any action necessary to protect the health and safety of New Jersey’s nine million residents,” Murphy said. “We know the virus spreads through person-to person contact, and the best way to prevent further exposure is to limit our public interactions to only the most essential purposes. This is a time for us all to come together in one mission to ‘flatten the curve’ and slow – and eventually halt – the spread of coronavirus.”

In effort to strengthen the existing social distancing measures in place, the order also prohibits all gatherings of individuals, such as parties, celebrations, or other social events, unless otherwise authorized by the order.

When in public, individuals must practice social distancing and stay at least six feet apart whenever possible, excluding immediate family members, caretakers, household members, or romantic partners.

Murphy’s order further directs the closure of all non-essential retail businesses to the public, with the exceptions of:

• Grocery stores, farmer's markets and farms that sell directly to customers, and other food stores, including retailers that offer a varied assortment of foods comparable to what exists at a grocery store;

• Pharmacies and medical marijuana dispensaries;

• Medical supply stores;

• Gas stations;

• Convenience stores;

• Ancillary stores within healthcare facilities;

• Hardware and home improvement stores;

• Banks and other financial institutions;

• Laundromats and dry-cleaning services;

• Stores that principally sell supplies for children under five years;

• Pet stores;

• Liquor stores;

• Car dealerships, but only for auto maintenance and repair, and auto mechanics;

• Printing and office supply shops;

• Mail and delivery stores.

“Nothing in the Order shall limit 1) the provision of health care or medical services; 2) access to essential services for low-income residents, such as food banks; 3) the operations of the media; 4) law enforcement agencies, or 5) the operations of the federal government,” the order said.

The town’s school district and OEM said that self-quarantine and universal precautions are still the safest course of action.