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Atlantic City High School graduation July 8, 2020


Local
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Nurse uses art to cheer up COVID-19 patient after having virus herself

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Sam O’Brien had just returned to work after quarantining for 14 days due to contracting COVID-19. She’s a registered nurse at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center’s Mainland Campus and didn’t have an assignment on her first day back.

Soon enough, she was given one. That’s how she met Joey Ortiz, a 46-year-old Hammonton resident with Down syndrome who was hospitalized with the virus.

Ortiz was admitted on Mother’s Day and stayed for three weeks.

“I can only imagine how he was feeling being isolated and never being away from home before,” O’Brien said.

She could tell Ortiz’s spirits were low as he would only give one-word answers, and she had an inkling his vocabulary was likely more robust than that.

“I thought if I could cheer him up, then he would open up a little more,” she said.

The nurse picked up a black marker and started drawing on the glass window of Ortiz’s hospital room door. She drew a smiley face, flowers, a cat and a dog.

Connecting with patients, and their families, is part of a nurse’s job, said Kim Clements, clinical director for critical care and emergency services at AtlantiCare. But making that connection amid a global pandemic, when social distancing is encouraged and masks are mandatory, is a little harder.

But it’s not impossible.

“We go into nursing and hold people’s hands and hug families. We’re in people’s personal spaces,” Clements said. “Not being able to do that is difficult, so it’s nice to see people getting creative. Going forward, I think that’s part of our future.”

The creativity was comforting for Ortiz’s family as well.

Gladys Ortiz, Joey’s mother, cares for him on a daily basis. Due to the virus, she could not visit her son in the hospital and had to trust in the hospital staff that he was given the best care.

If she could have, she would have been by his side day and night. Instead, her daughter, Norma, talked to the nursing staff two to three times a day to check on Joey’s condition.

“The nurses were very nice. I was very happy,” Gladys Ortiz said. “And Joey seemed OK. Quiet and scared, but OK.

“But I cried every day.”

Ortiz was treated so well by his nurses that he once told his mom on a phone call that he wanted to stay in the hospital.

“I don’t want to come home,” Gladys Ortiz recalled him saying.

“They loved Joey a lot,” she said of the nurses. “But I’m happy. I’m very, very happy because I have my son.”

And even though all of the nursing staff members work to make every patient feel comfortable and happy, O’Brien felt a deeper understanding of what the COVID-19 patients were going through because she had the virus herself.

“One patient said, ‘I never want to feel like this again,’ and I totally get it,” she said.

But she knew she couldn’t hug them or hold their hand, so finding a different way to make them smile felt good.

“Even though that was one isolated incident, it’s not the only time we connected with anyone,” she said. “It was a little snapshot of what we do on a daily basis.”

“It’s inspiring,” she added. “It makes me feel like I’m doing something right … as far as life choices go in becoming a nurse.”

Clements said O’Brien leading the way by drawing on the window and making a patient smile has been uplifting for the whole team.

“Everyone should be kind because not everything is rainbows and butterflies,” O’Brien said. “That took me two minutes to make somebody’s day.”


Margate hosted Ocean City in the ACBL league, for some of the first live sports since the Covid pandemic. Margate, NJ. July 7, 2020 (Kristian Gonyea/For the Press of Atlantic City)


Gov. Phil Murphy wears a mask during a June briefing.


Politics
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Kennedy looks to unify Democrats against Van Drew after tough primary

NORTHFIELD — Likely Democratic nominee for the 2nd Congressional District Amy Kennedy, of Brigantine, is ready to mend fences after a heated primary election.

The party needs to be strong to defeat U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-2nd, Kennedy said at a victory party Tuesday night at her headquarters.

“The first step is going to be about pulling together support — making sure the Democratic Party is unified for what will be a tough race,” she said of November’s general election against the freshman congressman. “I will make sure I reach out to people not with me in the beginning of this race.”

With about half of the more than 60,000 vote-by-mail ballots cast districtwide counted by midday Wednesday, Kennedy had about 65% of the vote to Brigid Callahan Harrison’s 26% and Will Cunningham’s 12%.

Kennedy had absorbed many attacks from her strongest opponent, Longport’s Harrison, who conceded the election minutes after the close of polls.

The attacks prepared her well for the race against Van Drew, Kennedy said.

“That’s what primaries are for,” Kennedy said. “It’s definitely been helpful to sharpen my own stance and prepare me for what’s coming.”

“We are where I thought we would be,” Van Drew, who beat his primary opponent, Bob Patterson of Ocean City, handily with more than 80% of the vote, said of Kennedy winning the Democratic primary.

He said he will stress the differences in vision between him and Kennedy.

“What my campaign is going to be about is a strong America, strong military, energy production, strong borders and education,” Van Drew said. “And a strong supply chain.”

In a concession video, Harrison said she wanted to coalesce the party to defeat Van Drew.

Harrison had gone after Kennedy regarding her husband, Patrick Kennedy’s donation of $500,000 to a super political action committee that financed $75,000 in attack ads against Harrison, after Amy Kennedy had promised not to self-fund her campaign. She also criticized other aspects of Kennedy’s campaign and family finances.

Kennedy said she had spoken to both Harrison and Cunningham, of Vineland, who based on the earliest results placed a distant third. Kennedy said both candidates were gracious and generous in their remarks to her.

She had not yet heard from state Senate President Steve Sweeney, she said, who supported Harrison, but hoped to talk to him soon.

On Wednesday, Sweeney released a statement on Kennedy’s win.

“The democratic process must be respected, and our goal remains the same — and that is to defeat Jeff Van Drew and elect Joe Biden president of the United States,” Sweeney said. “I congratulate Amy and look forward to her victory in November.”

John Foonjian, executive director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University, called Kennedy’s win “an impressive victory throughout South Jersey.”

“Looking at the numbers, Kennedy won in every county,” Froonjian said. “The only ones even a little close were Camden and Gloucester, but Kennedy still won by double digits in Norcross and Sweeney territory.”

George Norcross is a political powerbroker based in Camden County, and Sweeney’s home county is Gloucester. Both had supported Harrison, who had the coveted county line in six of eight counties in the district. That put her name under Biden’s for president and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, both of whom won their contests.

“In Cumberland and Cape May, there was a 20-to-30-point spread. It’s very early in Atlantic County, but the numbers even now are unbelievably lopsided,” Froonjian said.

Kennedy and many of her supporters said they were surprised by Harrison’s early concession.

“I knew it could be a longer process, and I was prepared for that,” Kennedy said. “I’m grateful to be able to focus on the general election.”

Van Drew ignited Democrats’ ire when he switched to the Republican Party after voting against impeaching President Donald Trump, amassing a crowded field of opponents.

Some contenders had already dropped out, leaving five Democratic candidates in the race Tuesday night. In addition to Kennedy, Harrison and Cunningham, the two others were West Cape May Commissioner John Francis and retired FBI agent Robert Turkavage, of Brigantine.

Kennedy celebrated Tuesday night at her headquarters in Northfield with family, friends and Gov. Phil Murphy and his wife, Tammy.

“I can’t believe we won the lottery here in South Jersey,” Murphy said, calling Kennedy a “bona fide fourth-generation Jersey Girl.”

Kennedy said Murphy made the decision to drive down from his home in Monmouth County after hearing Harrison had conceded just minutes after the polls closed at 8 p.m.

Some politicos had seen the race as a proxy fight between Murphy and the South Jersey political machine run by Norcross and Sweeney, both of whom are considered foes of Murphy.

The gathering was held in the parking lot of the campaign offices on New Road, near the produce store owned by Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, D-Atlantic, who supported Harrison.

Everyone wore a mask, but it was difficult for all to stay 6 feet apart, especially as just about all attendees seemed to want a photo with the presumed winner.

As of 4:30 p.m. on July 13, 31,625 of an estimated 45,000 ballots cast in the July 7 primary had been counted in Atlantic County. Atlantic County numbers are updated to July 13, but not other counties.

CountyRaceCandidatePartyVotes
Atlantic CityMayorMarty Small D3,326
Atlantic CityMayorPamela Thomas-Fields D1,627
Atlantic CityMayorJames WhiteheadD243
Atlantic CityMayorThomas ForkinR403
Atlantic CountySheriffEric Scheffler D15,985
Atlantic CountySheriffJoseph O'Donoghue R11,029
Atlantic CountySurrogateStephen Dicht D12,991
Atlantic CountySurrogateLevi FoxD2,877
Atlantic CountySurrogateJames Curcio R11,174
Atlantic CountyFreeholderCaren Fitzpatrick D15,660
Atlantic CountyFreeholderCeleste Fernandez D15,701
Atlantic CountyFreeholderJohn Risley JrR11,213
Atlantic CountyFreeholderJames TotoR10,876
Atlantic CountyFreholder D3Andrew Parker R2,187
Atlantic CountyFreholder D3Thelma Witherspoon D3,184
Barnegat TownshipTownship CommitteeAlfonso Cirulli R1,668
Barnegat TownshipTownship CommitteeJoseph Marte R1,662
Barnegat TownshipTownship CommitteeCharles Cunliffe D1,644
Barnegat TownshipTownship CommitteePeggy Houle D1,691
Cape May CountyFreeholderElizabeth Casey D5,504
Cape May CountyFreeholderBrendan SciarraD5,285
Cape May CountyFreeholderWill Morey R6,624
Cape May CountyFreeholderJeffrey Pierson R6,535
Lacey TownshipTownship CommitteeNicholas Juliano R1,980
Lacey TownshipTownship CommitteeBill Stemmle D1,286
LakewoodTownship CommitteeMichael D’Elia R4,805
LakewoodTownship CommitteeHector Fuentes R4,632
LakewoodTownship CommitteeHarold Herskowitz R1,391
LakewoodTownship CommitteeRay Coles D2,110
LakewoodTownship CommitteeMordy Gross D1,977
Little Egg HarborTownship CommitteeRay Gormley R1,632
Little Egg HarborTownship CommitteeJohn Kehm R1,603
Little Egg HarborTownship CommitteeGabriel Franco D1,273
Little Egg HarborTownship CommitteeShaun Moran D1,264
Lower TownshipMayorChristopher South D1,323
Lower TownshipMayorFrank Sippel R1,455
Middle TownshipTownship CommitteeBob Jackson D987
Middle TownshipTownship CommitteeTimothy Donohue R1,091
Ocean CountyCounty ClerkScott Colabella R39,146
Ocean CountyCounty ClerkKathy Russell D31,413
Ocean CountyFreeholderJoe Vicari R38,731
Ocean CountyFreeholderHelen Dela Cruz D31,398
Ocean TownshipTownship CommitteeKen Baulderstone R1,019
Ocean TownshipTownship CommitteeRita Kopacz D567

Politics
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Atlantic City Mayor Small claims victory in Democratic primary

ATLANTIC CITY — With 3,202 Democratic votes counted in Atlantic City shortly before noon Wednesday, Mayor Marty Small Sr. continued to lead with about 61% of the vote, according to the Atlantic County Board of Elections.

Councilwoman LaToya Dunston was also leading in her 2nd Ward City Council race.

Pamela Thomas-Fields had about 34% of the Democratic mayoral primary vote, and Jimmy Whitehead had about 5%.

Small held a news conference Wednesday afternoon at his headquarters at North Carolina and Atlantic avenues to say he’s claiming victory and to thank his supporters. He expects to get the overwhelming majority of the outstanding votes, he said.

“The numbers are on our side. We expect the numbers to continue to rise based on our data,” Small said. “Those of you who did not vote or support us, hopefully you will find it in your heart in the future. This (election) is for another year — through Dec. 31, 2021.”

The mayoral candidates were vying for a one-year unexpired term, the result of former Mayor Frank Gilliam Jr.’s resignation in October after pleading guilty to wire fraud in federal court. A full four-year term will be on the 2021 ballot.

“We believe we will be in a pretty good position for that as well,” Small said.

Small said he has not yet heard from either of his opponents.

Thomas-Fields said Wednesday she would comment after getting the numbers for herself.

In the council race, Dunston faced Democratic challenger Delmar Hamilton Sr. for a three-year unexpired term.

As of midday Wednesday, Dunston had 360 (almost 67%) of the counted votes and Hamilton had 172 (almost 32%).

Results of Atlantic City races will have to wait

ATLANTIC CITY — Marty Small Sr. will have to wait a little longer to learn whether he will retain his position as mayor or whether challengers Pamela Thomas-Fields or Jimmy Whitehead were able to garner the votes to unseat him.

Board of Elections Chair Evelynn Caterson estimated about 75% of the total votes cast from the resort had been counted by midday. There also were 399 Republican votes tallied, for a total of 3,601.

She said the resort votes were counted randomly, not by ward or time received.

More than 4,600 ballots have been received from Atlantic City voters, Caterson said. That total did not include any provisional or machine votes cast at polling places.

The 2020 primary was conducted almost entirely by mail to prevent crowds from gathering at polling locations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Six in-person polling locations were open in Atlantic City for voters to cast provisional ballots.

More than 14,000 ballots were mailed to registered voters in Atlantic City.

Small landed several high-profile endorsements during the campaign, including from Gov. Phil Murphy, U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez, Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Armato, former Mayor Lorenzo Langford and four members of council. He also secured the county party line.

Thomas-Fields had the support of the local Democratic Committee and three council members.

Republican candidate Thomas Forkin ran unopposed in his party’s mayoral primary. Forkin, the former chair of the city Democratic Committee and current vice chair of the Atlantic City Republican Club, will square off against the Democratic nominee in November.

Staff Writer David Danzis contributed to this report.

As of 4:30 p.m. on July 13, 31,625 of an estimated 45,000 ballots cast in the July 7 primary had been counted in Atlantic County. Atlantic County numbers are updated to July 13, but not other counties.

CountyRaceCandidatePartyVotes
Atlantic CityMayorMarty Small D3,326
Atlantic CityMayorPamela Thomas-Fields D1,627
Atlantic CityMayorJames WhiteheadD243
Atlantic CityMayorThomas ForkinR403
Atlantic CountySheriffEric Scheffler D15,985
Atlantic CountySheriffJoseph O'Donoghue R11,029
Atlantic CountySurrogateStephen Dicht D12,991
Atlantic CountySurrogateLevi FoxD2,877
Atlantic CountySurrogateJames Curcio R11,174
Atlantic CountyFreeholderCaren Fitzpatrick D15,660
Atlantic CountyFreeholderCeleste Fernandez D15,701
Atlantic CountyFreeholderJohn Risley JrR11,213
Atlantic CountyFreeholderJames TotoR10,876
Atlantic CountyFreholder D3Andrew Parker R2,187
Atlantic CountyFreholder D3Thelma Witherspoon D3,184
Barnegat TownshipTownship CommitteeAlfonso Cirulli R1,668
Barnegat TownshipTownship CommitteeJoseph Marte R1,662
Barnegat TownshipTownship CommitteeCharles Cunliffe D1,644
Barnegat TownshipTownship CommitteePeggy Houle D1,691
Cape May CountyFreeholderElizabeth Casey D5,504
Cape May CountyFreeholderBrendan SciarraD5,285
Cape May CountyFreeholderWill Morey R6,624
Cape May CountyFreeholderJeffrey Pierson R6,535
Lacey TownshipTownship CommitteeNicholas Juliano R1,980
Lacey TownshipTownship CommitteeBill Stemmle D1,286
LakewoodTownship CommitteeMichael D’Elia R4,805
LakewoodTownship CommitteeHector Fuentes R4,632
LakewoodTownship CommitteeHarold Herskowitz R1,391
LakewoodTownship CommitteeRay Coles D2,110
LakewoodTownship CommitteeMordy Gross D1,977
Little Egg HarborTownship CommitteeRay Gormley R1,632
Little Egg HarborTownship CommitteeJohn Kehm R1,603
Little Egg HarborTownship CommitteeGabriel Franco D1,273
Little Egg HarborTownship CommitteeShaun Moran D1,264
Lower TownshipMayorChristopher South D1,323
Lower TownshipMayorFrank Sippel R1,455
Middle TownshipTownship CommitteeBob Jackson D987
Middle TownshipTownship CommitteeTimothy Donohue R1,091
Ocean CountyCounty ClerkScott Colabella R39,146
Ocean CountyCounty ClerkKathy Russell D31,413
Ocean CountyFreeholderJoe Vicari R38,731
Ocean CountyFreeholderHelen Dela Cruz D31,398
Ocean TownshipTownship CommitteeKen Baulderstone R1,019
Ocean TownshipTownship CommitteeRita Kopacz D567

News
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COVID-19 UPDATES: Atlantic County to now offer COVID-19 testing without prescription

Atlantic County will continue to provide COVID-19 testing at its drive-through facility in Northfield and will now accept both symptomatic and asymptomatic county residents with or without a prescription, in accordance with the state’s effort to expand testing accessibility.

The county has provided testing for symptomatic residents since April 9. Out of more than 2,200 residents tested to date,  77% have tested negative.

The county’s next testing date is Tuesday, July 14. Appointments are required and can be made online at www.aclink.org. Proof of county residency and testing confirmation must be presented at testing.

Eight new cases of COVID-19 were announced in Cape May County on Wednesday, according to information released by the county health department.

Five cases were in Lower Township, two cases were in Middle Township and one case was in West Cape May, the health department said.

The total positive cases of COVID-19 infection in Cape May County is now 808, including 71 deaths, the health deparment said. Additionally, there are 13 new out of county positive cases that are included in the total number of 129 non-resident active cases.

New Jersey has 174,039 total COVID-19 positive cases and 13,476 deaths, the health department said.

Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday announced that everyone will be required to wear masks outside in public when social distancing isn't possible to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

“This is absolutely vital when individuals find themselves in a crowded situation, such as when walking down a packed Boardwalk or in a line that is not properly spaced apart,” Murphy said during a livestreamed briefing with other state officials.

There are exceptions to the mandate, including children under 2-years-old, while eating or drinking at an outdoor restaurant and when wearing a mask would inhibit a person’s health or safety, Murphy said.

Murphy said the outdoor mask mandate is going to be hard to enforce, deferring to the details for penalties in the forthcoming executive order.

New Jersey was the first state to mandate face coverings inside indoor businesses as they reopened, Murphy said, calling it “the right call from the get-go and it has saved lives.”

Although it was a step Murphy said he hoped he wouldn’t have to take, the mandate comes from a “backslide in compliance” as the weather has gotten warmer and the rate of transmission for the virus has increased to 1.10.

“Wearing a face covering, I remind you, is not about politics,” Murphy said. “It’s about quite simply being sick, or being healthy. It’s about life and death. It’s about showing others that you care about their health, especially if you’ve not been tested and you don’t know if you’re an asymptomatic carrier of the coronavirus. It’s about showing your community what side you’re on in the fight against COVID-19.”

The number of positive cases of COVID-19 in New Jersey has increased by 335, bringing the total to 174,039, Murphy said. There have been 53 additional deaths, bringing the state total to 13,476.

There are also 1,947 probable deaths, he said.

There are 935 people hospitalized across the state, including 175 people in intensive care and 142 people on ventilators, Murphy said.

So far, Atlantic County has reported 3,055 cases with 213 deaths and 1,620 cleared as recovered. Cape May County has reported 800 cases with 71 deaths and 649 designated off quarantine. Cumberland County has reported 2,524 cases with 137 deaths.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Included in the totals are two additional fatalities and 10 additional cases that Atlantic County officials reported Wednesday.

The deaths included a 71-year-old Absecon woman and an 82-year-old Linwood man, according to a news release from county spokeswoman Linda Gilmore. The new positives were among three men, ages 19 to 67, and seven girls and women, ages 14 to 49.

Three new positives were found in both Hamilton Township and Hammonton, while two were identified in Pleasantville, and one each in Egg Harbor Township and Somers Point, according to the release. An additional 39 county residents were cleared as recovered.

Atlantic County health officials encouraged residents and visitors to follow the recommended federal and state guidelines to help reduce the spread of Covid-19 by wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and hygiene protocols such as frequent handwashing and disinfecting common-touch areas, according to the release. Those who are sick and have symptoms of COVID-19 or respiratory illness are advised by officials to self-isolate and contact their healthcare provider.

Also during the briefing, Murphy said that officials will be allowing restaurants with at least two open sides to be considered outdoor dining and may reopen for in-person service.

“I have nothing but sympathy to the businesses and employees impacted, but we’re just not ready to open up indoor dining,” Murphy said.

In addition, Murphy announced that the state’s Motor Vehicle Commission offices will be open on Mondays through the rest of the month, which means they’ll be open six days a week.

The announcement came after the offices reopened yesterday to long lines that exceeded capacity. 

Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday announced that everyone will be required to wear masks outside in public when social distancing isn't possible to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Murphy said during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that he is signing an executive order today mandating the practice, according to NJ.com.

“There’s no question that face coverings are game-changers,” Murphy said, according to the outlet. “I think we were the first state in America to require them indoors. They’ve been strongly recommended out-of-doors. We’re gonna turn that up a notch today and say, We’re gonna ask you: If you can’t socially distance, it’s gonna be required.”

Access to Malibu Beach, also known as Dog Beach, will be prohibited through July 27 due to state-mandated employee furloughs, officials said.

The beach is situated at the Ocean City-Longport Bridge, in Egg Harbor Township. 

The state Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Fish & Wildlife is temporarily restricting access to some Wildlife Management Areas throughout the month of July, after officials reached agreements between the state and public employee unions to address the economic downtown resulting from the COVID-19 public health emergency, according to a news release.

The DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife manages the state’s Wildlife Management Areas, and is authorized to limit access to these areas in order to protect public health, safety, and the environment during this time pursuant to N.J.A.C. 7:25-2.26, according to a news release.

For a list of Wildlife Management Areas affected by the temporary access restrictions, visit https://www.nj.gov/dep/fgw/wmas.htm. 

The fifth food distribution for Atlantic City residents and casino workers is slated for Thursday at Bader Field. 

The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, together with the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, Atlantic City officials, AFL-CIO, Local 54 and other private donors have provided funding to offer food services for Atlantic City residents and casino workers, according to a news release.

The distribution is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. Thursday, according to the release. It's a drive-up event and food will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis.

Registration is required at the Community Food Bank website, https://cfbnj.org/.

State officials scheduled a 1 p.m. briefing Wednesday to update residents on the spread of COVID-19.

Appearing for the briefing will be Gov. Phil Murphy, Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, Department of Health Communicable Disease Service Medical Director Dr. Edward Lifshitz and State Police Superintendent Colonel Patrick Callahan.

It will be livestreamed here.

Source: State of New Jersey Department of Health

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

GALLERY: Community Food Bank of New Jersey food distribution event at Bader Field

GALLERY: Community Food Bank of New Jersey food distribution event at Bader Field