By DIEGO JESUS BARTESAGHI MENA
Essex County has suspended in-person visits to the Essex County Correctional Facility and the Essex County Hospital Center amid a surge in coronavirus cases throughout the region and country.
County Chief of Staff Phil Alagia said the suspensions, which went into effect on Monday, Dec. 27, were “done out of an abundance of caution,” but he said they weren’t prompted by outbreaks at either facility. Montclair Local has contacted county officials for recent case counts at both facilities and is awaiting a message clarifying figures provided.
There is no end date yet planned for the suspensions, but the county will continue to assess its policy on an ongoing basis, Alagia said.
In December, some Montclair-area area businesses announced temporarily closures due to pandemic concerns. Café MoSo, Mosoria Pizza and The General Store at Cornerstone Montclair each shut their doors until after the New Year.
On Dec. 23, Montclair’s building department closed its office for the day; a notice on the township’s website said that was for “unforeseen circumstances.” Township Communications Director Katya Wowk said the department was short-staffed because of holiday schedules and people out for health reasons, but she didn’t know if that was COVID-related.
The building office reopened this week and was running normally, but was not “seeing people in the office as an extra precaution,” Wowk said.
In recent weeks, the township, like all of the region, has seen an increase in coronavirus cases. Over the week leading up to Dec. 30, Montclair averaged 114 news cases per day, according to the township health department’s tracking. By comparison, in the week leading up to Nov. 30, the township saw an average of less than 5 new cases per day.