Officials: Township has nine confirmed COVID-19 cases

West Milford. Nine township residents have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and at least three have ties to the high school, according to officials. Local health officials are tracing their movements to see who else may have been infected.

| 26 Mar 2020 | 08:51

There are now nine confirmed COVID-19 case in the township, with three having ties to the high school, officials said Thursday.

In at least three instances, the cases are related to people having contact with West Milford High School, including a female cafeteria worker.

Officials believe the woman is related to the town’s first case, a 42-year-old man, who was diagnosed with the virus last week, and remains hospitalized at Chilton Medical Center in Pompton Plains.

Two other confirmed cases are a 26-year-old male and a 35-year-old female healthcare worker.

Neither are hospitalized, and the cause of their exposure is not yet known, Mayor Michele Dale said.

Information on four of the cases was not available by press time.

Regarding the cafeteria worker, Dale said she is awaiting further details on the case.

“We are again gathering as much information as possible to notify anyone that was within six feet for more than 10 minutes of anyone who has had a confirmed case of Covid-19,” she said in the post. “The township nurse will be in contact with anyone whom was potentially exposed when the information becomes available.”

In a separate letter to parents last week, schools Superintendent Dr. Alex Anemone said the worker was being treated at a hospital, and that he could not release any further details due to privacy concerns.

He said her area was cleaned and disinfected and that other workers she came in contact with are now self-quarantined.

During the weekend, it was also announced that the 42-year-old man had attended a play at the high school on March 12, the night before the school closed down due to the virus.

As in the above case, health officials are tracing his movements to see if anyone he may have come into contact with is infected, officials said.

In a separate email to parents this week, Anemone also identified another individual that tested positive and was on a field trip with one of the sports teams.

“Earlier (Tuesday), we were notified that a community member tested positive for COVID-19. This individual was recently on a field trip with some of our High School students,” Anemone’s letter said. “We have asked him to reach out to the West Milford Office of Emergency Management (OEM) for further assistance. We are in the process of contacting all students who attended the boys and girls Lacrosse Spring Training in Orlando, Florida on the following dates: Thursday, March 12 - Monday, March 16.”

In addition, Dale said a female resident, who is being tested for the virus at a hospital, contacted her on Monday, which could be another case in the township.

“We remain in constant contact with the health care professionals involved and will release other information as it is provided and permitted to be released in accordance with HIPPA,” Dale said in the post. “We are also tracking back, in accordance with standard protocols, all places the infected residents visited in the past two weeks and with whom the residents came into contact. We will be in touch with anyone who may have come in contact with these individuals and advise them they may have been exposed to COVID-19 and may need to self-quarantined.”

Dale said residents must remain vigilant and act if they were carriers of the virus, and remember to frequently wash their hands, refrain from touching their face and practice social distancing.

“I also implore you to remain at home as much as possible,” she said. “By working together, we can minimize the spread of this virus and help ensure we return to our normal routines as quickly as possible.”

Previously, two district staff members self-quarantined after possibly being exposed to the virus during a social outing with colleagues in Ramapo, Anemone said following the Feb. 25 Board of Education meeting.

Anemone said the staff members’ friend works at a school in Rockland County that had five students who were quarantined for exposure to the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.

They work at Macopin Middle School and Marshall Hill Elementary School, he said.

First detected in humans in Wuhan, China in December 2019, COVID-19 ("coronavirus disease 2019") is the respiratory disease caused by a new coronavirus, the New Jersey state health department said.

Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath and are believed to occur 2-14 days after exposure, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“While we have no reason to believe that our staff members have contracted the virus, we wish to err on the side of caution as we are always concerned about student health and wellness,” Anemone said in the letter. “Accordingly, we have asked the staff members not to report to school and remain at home for a period of 14 calendar days.”

Neither staff member showed symptoms, Anemone said, and will be able to return to school if not symptomatic after a 14-day period.

“This is all precautionary,” Anemone said at the time. “Their friend from New York State was also not symptomatic.”