Montgomery & COVID-19: Late Summer Update
By Stephanie Carey, Montgomery Health Officer
In late August, the State of New Jersey announced that Montgomery and Somerset County are in the “green zone,” meaning “low prevalence” of COVID-19. This is great news, and a testament to the determination of our residents, elected leaders, and health professionals in following health guidance from state leaders and the Centers for Disease Control.
Even though we are in the green zone, we must remain vigilant until the pandemic is over. We must continue to social distance, wear masks, avoid indoor gatherings, and frequently wash hands.
In Montgomery, we have special reason to be proud of our success. My department has experienced a 95% cooperation rate during contact tracing phone calls, which means that people who test positive, their family members, and friends are agreeing to speak with us to help identify others who are at risk of infection. This helps us minimize the risk of further virus transmission. In other communities, the cooperation rate is only slightly above 50%. Residents have earned an “A” for contact tracing.
Back in June, I wrote an article that favorably compared the COVID-19 cases in Montgomery to other communities. I thought this would be a good time to update that analysis.
How Has Montgomery Fared?
As of mid-August, we have had 135 cases and 7 deaths in Montgomery. Thankfully, it has now been more than two months since a Montgomery resident has died of COVID-19.
The worst cases and deaths are sources of great sorrow to the affected families and friends. Yet when you compare Montgomery to other areas, we fared much better than most communities, for a variety of reasons, including the excellent compliance of our residents with CDC and New Jersey state orders.
The chart below looks at the number of cases relative to population. Montgomery Township has had 5.9 COVID cases for every 1,000 residents, which is dramatically lower than the rates statewide (21.4) or throughout Somerset County (16.2). Our rate of cases also is lower than every one of our major neighboring towns.
The rate of death per 1,000 population is 0.3, meaning we had about 1 death for every 3,000 people in town, as shown in the next chart. That compares well to the state and county averages, including our neighboring towns. As in other places, those who have succumbed to the disease in Montgomery have tended to be over the age of 65.
Reasons Montgomery Has Done Comparatively Well
There are many reasons why Montgomery has done better than many other places. Factors include distance from the outbreak epicenter in New York City, and from commuter lines; an affluent population that generally was able to work from home; and compliance with social distancing and masking rules and guidelines. The fact that we did well relative to our similar neighboring towns is consistent with my observation above that Montgomery residents have done an excellent job in adhering to guidelines. That should be a source of pride to everyone here in Montgomery.
Race/Ethnicity and Local COVID
Unfortunately, despite our overall success in fighting COVID-19, the pattern of disease in Montgomery reflects the same race and ethnicity disparities that have been measured across the country, as shown in the chart below. When you add up the African American, Hispanic, and mixed-race residents of Montgomery, they represent 24% of COVID-19 cases, despite representing only 10% of our population, a slight improvement since my last report in June.
Health patterns such as the one we see nationwide and here in Montgomery are reasons why racism has been named a public health problem by the American Public Health Association. It’s also a reason the Montgomery Township Committee on July 2 passed a resolution declaring that racism is a public health crisis. It may be tempting to feel Montgomery is immune from these national problems, but, regrettably, we are not.
While this pandemic has revealed many serious problems that our society needs to address, it has also revealed the heroism of our health care workers and first responders, and also the resilience of communities like Montgomery. By taking the health risks seriously, and reaching out to help one another, Montgomery residents have revealed how special our community truly is.
TODAY’S COVID-19 CASE REPORT
Note: There have been zero (0) new cases in Montgomery/Rocky Hill since our last report Monday, 9-01-20.
As of 9 am today, 9-01
NJ cases: 192,595
NJ deaths: 15,964
Somerset County cases: 5,426
Somerset County deaths: 566
Montgomery cases: 145
Montgomery deaths: 7
Rocky Hill cases: 7
Rocky Hill deaths: 0
152 confirmed and probably cases for Montgomery and Rocky Hill in total, of which:
– 140 presumed recovereda
– 5 currently ill
– 7 fatalities
a “Presumed recovered” means 30 days have elapsed since individual’s diagnosis and the person is not hospitalized.
*****DISCLAIMER***** Reported numbers on this page may not match the figures provided on the Somerset County page. This is due to differences in reporting times.
Testing Site info found at: https://health.montgomery.nj.us/covid-testing/