During the past week (Apr 24 to May 1), coronavirus cases in Atlantic County almost doubled from 544 to 1,012. Deaths increased from 30 to 45. Does that mean we are in danger of becoming a “hot spot”? Does that mean we need a longer lockdown to be safe?
We cannot answer those questions without knowing who is infected, and where and how they got infected. Neither government officials, nor the news media will tell us. However, certain important clues were released during the past week.
On May 1, Atlantic County’s 11 nursing homes reported 391 cases and 33 deaths. That comes to 39% of the county’s cases and 74% of the deaths. Ancora State Psychiatric Hospital reported that 60 of its patients and 80 of its employees tested positive. One patient died. Although Ancora is in Winslow Township in Camden County, many of its employees live in Atlantic County.
Atlantic City has roughly 300 homeless living in its crowded Rescue Mission. Many more sleep in crowded spaces in vacant buildings and under the Boardwalk. Although many of them were tested during the past few days, neither public health officials nor the media have reported how many of them are infected. However, other cities are reporting high rates of coronavirus infections among their homeless. Recently, New Jersey Transit stopped charging fares on its buses. We have seen many of Atlantic City’s homeless riding on those buses, and begging or shopping at Wawa’s and other food stores throughout South Jersey. Recently, county and state agencies relocated a number of Atlantic City’s homeless people to motels in suburban towns like Absecon and Egg Harbor Township.
It is well known that many nursing home employees are paid very little and depend on public transportation. Therefore, there is an obvious risk of them riding on the same buses as homeless people.
The big unknown factor is knowing how many people in Atlantic County are infected with coronavirus who are not homeless, and not a patient or employee of Ancora or a nursing home.