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Covid-19 News Recent News

An Open Letter to Gov. Phil Murphy Regarding Opening Atlantic City’s Casinos

Office of the Governor of New Jersey
Trenton, New Jersey 08625

Your Excellency Governor Phil Murphy:

My name is Hemang A. Sutaria. I am writing to you to as a son, a husband, and a parent. Along with my family, I am one of your constituents. My wife, my mother, and I have been unemployed due to COVID-19 Pandemic. We are all Casino Workers and have been for decades.

There has been talk in the Local News Media of Casinos making plans to open by early or mid-June. These are opening plans being presented by Casino Owners and Corporations alike. I agree to the fact that businesses have to resume operations and economic activity has to commence. Although, another fact still remains true. There is no viable vaccine presently available to the public at large to fight this virus. The risks are greatly enhanced by simply walking into an enclosed public building, like a Casino. I am not a Health Care Professional, but I am confident the last thing a Health Care Professional would recommend during an infectious pandemic is to have a large public gathering in an enclosed public building for a prolonged period of time. We have all read unfortunate reports of Health Care Workers being infected and dying. This virus does not spare anyone, even if they are using state of the art personal protective equipment (PPE). How would a Casino Worker fare against this virus with only a face mask?

I applaud the efforts Casino Corporations are making to keep employees and patrons safe. This is a difficult time for them as well. Although, they are blinded by their unwavering loyalty to their partners and shareholders. Casinos have all setup some form of gaming operations via online gaming and online sports betting. Granted, the Casino buildings are closed, but they have all conducted business as usual online, with revenues surpassing that of Las Vegas. Apart from online revenues, I would highly doubt Casinos Corporations were left out of the $2.2 Trillion Stimulus Package awarded by the Federal Government with the passing of the CARES Act.

It has been largely reported in the National News Media the unfortunate developments of some of the White House Staffers and President Trump’s personal Valet having been tested positive for COVID-19. One has to wonder, IF the most protected building on our planet, not just on our planet, but in the known universe was penetrated by COVID-19, what chance does an Atlantic City Casino worker or a Las Vegas Casino Worker have against this virus?

I humbly request you to carefully consider the opening of Atlantic City Casinos. I’m sure there will be political and economic pressure to resume Casino Operations. I assure you, by opening Casinos, which are non-essential, you will be sentencing not just my family and me, but some of my 16,000+ colleagues to their grave. Casinos serve one purpose and one purpose alone, ENTERTAINMENT…! The economic recovery via entertainment revenue and gaming revenue can wait a little while. Atlantic City Casinos have had since 1978 to prepare for rainy day funds. Multi- billion dollar Casino Corporations have never been satisfied with revenues, they always want more! As a 15+ year Casino Worker, I can tell you from my experience that Casino Corporations are notorious for talking out of both sides of their mouth and cutting corners, regardless of the negative effects on patrons or employees.

Governor Murphy, this letter is not intended to vilify anyone or any business. Although, as our Governor, you are our last line of defense. You have the supreme authority to decide our fate as we move forward during this time of uncertainty and fear. I hope and pray God will accord you prudence and wisdom to prolong Casino openings. Please do not subject your constituents and their families (regardless of party affiliation) to suffer from the COVID-19 fallout for economic recovery, profitable casino balance sheets and stock price gains. Casinos have a lot of money, surely they can ride out the rough patch.

Hemang A. Sutaria
Egg Harbor Township, NJ

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Bright Side Covid-19 Recent News

Bellmawr Native & Rutgers-Camden 2020 Grad, Joe Lutz, Works on the Front Line of COVID-19 Pandemic

Editor’s note: This article was written by Jeanne Long for Rutgers-Camden News Now

As a paramedic, Joseph Lutz plays a vital role in treating the sick and injured in emergencies, but during the coronavirus pandemic, his job has evolved into handling patient care in a hospital and performing an administrative role in setting up a field hospital in Secaucus.

When coronavirus cases began rising in New Jersey, the Rutgers University‒Camden biology student was mainly performing his usual paramedic duties at University Hospital in Newark, where he is employed.

By early April, the hospital’s emergency department was overwhelmed with patients with COVID-19, so the hospital re-assigned Lutz and other paramedics to assist nurses.

“I was working in our emergency dispatch center, when we received a call from hospital administration stating that the situation in the emergency department was dire,” says Lutz, of Bellmawr. “There were many extremely sick patients, and not enough nurses.”

That day, he spent eight hours attending to patients on ventilators.

Joe Lutz and his wife, Michelle, who is also a paramedic. (Photo credit: Rutgers-Camden News Now)

During the coronavirus pandemic, as the need skyrocketed for hospital beds for extremely sick patients, New Jersey received federal assistance to create the Federal Medical Shelter (FMS) located in Secaucus. Since early April, Lutz has been intimately involved in the operations of FMS and the North Region Medical Coordination Center, a space created after Sept. 11, 2001, to coordinate medical response to major medical situations. Lutz and his colleagues facilitated moving more than 250 patients from northern New Jersey hospitals to the shelter to make space for more seriously ill patients who required treatment in a hospital.

“There is no doubt that this process of opening up hospital beds for sicker patients saved lives,” says Lutz.

A Bellmawr native, Lutz lived in South Jersey until his first year of high school, when he and his mother moved to North Brunswick.

As a teenager, Lutz became interested in helping others. With his sharp technical skills, he became a website designer in high school, earning enough money to help his mom pay their living expenses. While he continued designing websites, he decided to drop out of school. In 2002, he earned his GED. 

After working as an emergency medical technician at Bellmawr EMS for several years, Lutz attended Camden County College to complete a paramedic training certificate program. His success in class inspired him to further his education, earning an associate’s degree in applied sciences as he continued working full-time as a paramedic at Bellmawr EMS. 

He returned to Camden County College in 2012 to study biology, but working full-time at night and attending classes full-time during the day, left him little time for sleep, so he dropped out for several years, got married, and then returned to school full-time. He completed his associate’s degree in biology in 2018, six years after he started.

He credits his Rutgers‒Camden education in giving him experience in research and data analysis.

Lutz was among the MCC health care professionals who appeared at Gov. Phil Murphy’s daily televised coronavirus briefing on May 9 to present information about the center’s operations and plasma treatment for COVID-19 patients at University Hospital. Lutz created two of the charts that the president/CEO of University Hospital, Shereef Elnahal, presented at Gov. Murphy’s briefing.

Joe Lutz (far left) at Gov. Murphy’s televised daily briefing on May 9, 2020 (Photo credit: Rutgers-Camden News Now)

“A few years ago, I would have been of little more use than providing patient care – which is also very important,” says Lutz. “Today, I am able to take on an administrative role and influence the care and outcomes of many more patients because of what I have learned from Rutgers‒Camden professors.

As Lutz receives his bachelor of science degree in biology and health science from Rutgers‒Camden, it is not the end of his formal education. He plans to attend medical school to become a physician.

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Bright Side Covid-19 Feature Stories Recent News

Capturing Unique Family Images with ‘Porchraits’

Abdullah Anderson, Sr., Octacia Anderson, Abdullah Anderson, Jr., and Amira Anderson of Galloway stocked up on supplies, curriculum and exercise during their quarantine. Abdullah, Jr. has a special reason to make sure he keeps in shape – he plays defensive end for the Chicago Bears football team. (Photo provided by Photography by Randee)

Margate, New Jersey (May 11, 2020) – With schools across the nation experiencing canceled classes, sporting events, proms and graduations, Atlantic City High School teacher Randee Rosenfeld decided to spend her spring break photographing South Jersey family ‘porchraits.’

As the owner of Photography by Randee, she knows the impact and memories a photograph brings to individuals and families. In her business, she usually photographs beach portraits, weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs and more. So, when the pandemic struck, she shifted her business focus in a new photography direction with the Front Porch Project which was being done around the country.

Photographer Randee Rosenfeld, wearing her custom face mask, photographed 65 families throughout Atlantic County in their unique ‘porchraits.’ (Photo provided by Photography by Randee)

With the help of social media, she started a quest to capture the poignant porch moments of families throughout Atlantic County – Margate, Linwood, Northfield, Galloway, Absecon, Ventnor, Somers Point, Egg Harbor Township, Smithville, Brigantine and Mays Landing – and her campaign paid off. All total, Randee photographed 65 one-of-a-kind family porch portraits.

With many individuals and families sheltering at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, being able to gather outside and express yourself in pictures was a fun and engaging way for people to come together for a keepsake image.

While no payment for the portrait was required, families could make a donation to Jewish Family Service of Atlantic & Cape May Counties.

Pictured left to right: Ella Marie, Patrick John and Emma Grace Freehan of Brigantine celebrated their three Class of 2020 graduations together. Photo provided by Photography by Randee)

“There are many people offering acts of kindness in some fashion or another. I knew that by taking pictures, individuals and families would have a memento when they share their story with future generations about this time in their lives,” said Randee Rosenfeld. “I wanted to give people something tangible, and also support a wonderful organization like JFS, and this idea made the perfect project,” she added.

In total, Randee collected donations of nearly $2,000 which will help support JFS’ services and programs our community needs during this unprecedented time.

Pictured left to right: The rollerblading family of Russel, Danielle, Ella and Abby Bergeron of Galloway found a great way to use some essential household supplies while taking a break to play a friendly game of cards. Photo provided by Photography by Randee

For more information on how you can help JFS or make a secure on-line donation, visit jfsatlantic.org.

About Jewish Family Service

Jewish Family Service of Atlantic & Cape May Counties (JFS) encourages strong families, thriving children, healthy adults, energized seniors and vital communities. With dozens of program areas, JFS specializes in counseling, mental health services, homeless programs, vocational services, adult and older adult services and also hosts an on-site food pantry.

The agency impacts 8,000 lives throughout Atlantic and Cape May Counties each year.

JFS’ mission is to motivate and empower people to realize their potential and enhance their quality of life. In keeping with Jewish values and the spirit of tikkun olam (healing the world), JFS provides services with integrity, compassion, respect and professionalism regardless of their religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age or background.
For more information or to keep up-to-date with JFS events and programs, visit www.jfsatlantic.org or follow on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.