The Sussex County Democratic Committee is disappointed to hear the news of (COVID) outbreaks in the towns of Sparta and Newton. Multiple High school districts have had to scramble to change their learning plans due to outbreaks among staff and students in recent days as well. These outbreaks are not surprising by any means but must be taken seriously in order to protect our shared countywide community.
The commonality between these events seems to be large gatherings that present huge risks both on paper and in practice. In Newton, a fundraising event with a large crowd and lax enforcement of PPE use. In Sparta, a party that created an atmosphere where the virus was easily able to be transferred from person to person. These types of events then led to those who were exposed to COVID-19 to go about their daily routines, potentially infecting dozens of others and allowing the cycle to continue throughout the county. What has our local leadership’s response been? Silence, suppression of imperative information and bullying of those who speak out. In Sparta, the town council called an emergency meeting in conjunction with the town’s school board. The meeting resulted in no real plan, just a resolution promising the people of Sparta that the board of education would stay in constant contact with the township council. Not only should that have already been the case, but what does that “plan” do for the actual situation at hand? In Newton, we have seen a similar situation, but worse. There has been no comment from the town council, or anyone for that matter, regarding the outbreak and potential for exposure within the town.
The Freeholder Board of Sussex County has been very vocal on the topic of COVID-19 since the initial outbreak. Claims of how the virus was “purely political rhetoric” was commonplace at freeholder meetings since March. Accusations from our freeholders about how the Governor was abusing his power by requiring certain businesses to close were repeated over and over on their socially distanced conference calls. Thankfully, Sussex County had a relatively low number of losses and of those infected. While we are grateful for this, the fact that the Freeholder Board has used this as reasoning to constantly call for Sussex County to “open up” under a regional plan and return to our pre-COVID lifestyle is nonsensical. We are not an insulated island and a huge number of our working population are commuters who travel out of county every day.
With our county on the brink of becoming a potential hotspot and the rest of the state continuing to see their numbers controlled and declining, our Freeholder Board has decided to take action, just not on the topic of the outbreak. Instead, the Sussex County Freeholder Board decided to draft and pass a resolution at their most recent meeting this past week rejecting the State of New Jersey’s new sexual education curriculum, citing how the more LGBTQIA+ inclusive curriculum is “embarrassing to talk about” and “is too graphic to be taught to children.” The Freeholder Board was also slated to come out in opposition against the legalization of marijuana at the same meeting but decided to table that discussion at the last minute. There was no mention of the possible outbreaks within the county by the Freeholder Board, which they should have been made aware of by Freeholder Hertzberg, the same freeholder who was present at the emergency meeting in Sparta mentioned earlier. And the same freeholder who is currently running for town council in Sparta.
The local leaders in Sussex County, specifically the Freeholder Board, have made it very clear what their priorities are: re-election and continuation of power. The County of Sussex is in the midst of a crisis and deserves leadership that puts their constituents’ health first, especially when the problem is staring most of these leaders directly in their faces. Our simple advice to the local leaders of Sussex County (who had over six months to properly prepare their communities for situations like this) is: Remember why you were elected. People over politics, country over party. Put your own political agendas aside and focus on keeping our communities safe and healthy.
The Sussex County Democratic Committee