Coronavirus: The Big Threat at a Local Level (updated)


Gary Beeg, Staff Writer

The coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated “COVID-19,” is part of a group of viruses found in people and different animals such as camels, cows, bats and cats. It is a new respiratory virus that originated in the area of Wuhan, China in December of last year. Early cases of the virus were linked to a large seafood and animal market. This caused investigators to speculate the virus was animal-to- person, according to

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 mainly spreads person-to-person via those who are in close contact with one another. It is recommended to keep a distance of 6 to 10 feet between yourself and someone who is sick. The virus is spread through coughing and sneezing. A person can get the virus by coming into contact with contaminated surfaces and then touching their mouth, nose and eyes. The elderly, people with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease are at a higher risk of getting sick.

A fever, coughing and shortness of breath are three symptoms associated with COVID-19 and these may appear 2-14 days after initial exposure. According to the CDC, they caution against fear and anxiety about the virus which can lead to social stigma toward people and places. Some groups of people that may experience stigma because of the disease include people of Asian descent, people who have traveled, emergency responders and healthcare professionals. According to an article from NBC New York, a possible hate crime is being investigated when a video of a subway passenger spraying an Asian man with air freshener emerged.

According to the CDC, there is no vaccine to prevent the disease and the best way to combat the illness is to avoid being exposed. It is recommended to avoid close contact with sick people, avoid touching your nose, eyes and mouth, stay home if you are sick, cover your mouth if you cough or sneeze, clean and disinfect frequently touched objects with a disinfectant wipe or spray, and wash your hands for approximately twenty to thirty seconds.

The number of confirmed cases here in New Jersey has risen to 11 with 14 tests in progress and 24 people under investigation. Ocean County College President Dr. Jon Larson issued a statement on Mar. 3 about the coronavirus. In the address, Larson urged students to follow the instructions given by the New Jersey Department of Health as well as the Center for Disease Control. On Mar. 9, Larson updated the campus with additional information about the coronavirus and what you should do if you are sick.

According to an OCC announcement about virus precautions, the campus changed their disinfectant to Spartan Chemical HDQ C-2, a chemical that kills human coronavirus, on Feb. 28, 2020. On Mar. 4, custodial staff increased their duties by using the HDQ C-2 on “touch points” such as handrails, door handles, ADA push buttons, water fountains and tables. The restrooms are policed and soap dispensers are checked twice daily. The campus has also issued signage throughout with information on how to prevent respiratory viruses. The signs also have a QR code that brings the user to the CDC website. In addition, all study abroad trips for summer 2020 have been cancelled.

Governor Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency on Mar. 9 as the number of cases in the state have risen to 11. As the virus continues to spread, college campuses across the state have begun to consider long-term closures or are closing. According to an article in, Princeton University announced on Mar. 9 plans to start online classes later this month and encouraged students to stay home after spring break. They have also cut back on the number of campus gatherings.

“We are creating, supporting, and mandating alternative ways of meeting our academic and other programmatic requirements in ways consistent with social distancing,” Christopher L. Eisgruber, university president, said in a statement.

“This will include a mandatory, temporary move for all lectures, seminars, and precepts to virtual instruction starting on Monday, March 23.”

Rowan University also announced extending its spring break for students so faculty have time to prepare online coursework. Monmouth University will not hold classes until Mar. 23 because a student reported “flu-like symptoms,” the university president announced Monday.

Any student or employee who has been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 should stay home and contact the College at [email protected] and/or 732-255-0379.

The World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus to be a pandemic as New Jersey has reported its first fatality in the rising cases sweeping across the state. John Brennan, 69, of Bergen County had a history of diabetes, emphysema among other conditions. Brennan had no prior international travel history, though officials said he traveled to and from New York. Brennan was admitted to the hospital on Mar. 6 however his condition worsened and the victim underwent cardiac arrest Tuesday morning.

“We are sad to report the first death in a case of COVID-19 in New Jersey. Our prayers are with the family during this difficult time. We remain vigilant to doing all we can – across all levels of government – to protect the people of New Jersey,” Governor Phil Murphy and Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver said in a joint statement.

The news comes as the number of cases rose from 11 to 23 in the Garden State. Health Commissioner Judith Perisichilli said four of the new cases are in Bergen County while two are in Middlesex County and two are in Monmouth County. Perisichilli said officials are investigating the contacts of the new cases.

Schools and colleges across the state decided to shut down for sterilization purposes as well form a strategy in dealing with the viral threat. Sporting events are being cancelled, reporters are being banned from locker rooms at the professional level, the Brooklyn Nets and Golden State Warriors will play in an empty stadium and studio audiences have been banned from tapings of the game shows “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune.”

Ocean County College decided to move all of its classes online due to concerns over the coronavirus, falling in with other institutions across the Garden State. This action will begin Monday, Mar. 16 as students are on spring break until Mar. 22. All in-class instruction will be cancelled the following week from March 23 to March 29. Face-to-face classes are expected to resume on March 30.

“Although there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ocean County, making the risk of community transmission of the virus low, it is continuing to spread in various parts of the country and the state. As a result, a number of changes are being implemented at the College in response to the virus,” OCC President Dr. Jon Larson said in a letter posted to the college’s website.