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John Novak Talks About Governing his Town During the Coronavirus Pandemic

BARNEGAT-Of the three Republicans running for Congress against Democrat Andy Kim, only one is an active elected officials fighting on the front lines for his community during the coronavirus epidemic while David Richter and Kate Gibbs continue life on the campaign trail.

Novak said he’s been working with his local police department and different levels of government officials as his community, like all others in New Jersey push forward through the coronavirus pandeic.

“I’m not that hard to find. In fact, after a brief trip to Florida I am, and have been, right here in Barnegat – every day. While away I attended numerous conference calls involving county and state officials as well as daily staff telemeeting – oftentimes more than once daily,” Novak said. “Last week, I conducted a meeting of upper level staff including our Police Chief, Township Administrator and other key officials. Some attended by phone while others, including myself, attended in-person.”

Novak said he has faced some criticism about his leadership because he has not been on Facebook much lately.

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“This is a time for leadership, not grandstanding; leadership isn’t always public. Government isn’t run through FaceBook,” Novak said.  “That being said, our great police department has an active social media footprint/following and using that platform to inform the public of updates was appropriate. Of all the departments, police is the one that will continue to deliver services 24/7 at full staffing levels. That my Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator is a sworn member of the agency is all the better.”

“Given the range of coverage of COVID-19 it is a pandemic – otherwise it would be an epidemic. Except for unique venues such as Hoboken, New York City, the casinos of Atlantic City, and the like, most smaller suburban towns are similarly situated,” he added. “This is not only a Barnegat, Ocean County or even a New Jersey issue; even though all levels of government are affected, this is a nationwide and worldwide matter. In that context, federal and state agencies are lead. Just imagine 565 mayors in New Jersey’s 21 counties making statements, providing guidance and offering opinions; just look how complex and confusing the information stream is now with most local officials (appropriately) allowing lead agencies to lead.”

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So far, Barnegat has just 12 cases of COVIE-19 but Novak said his job isn’t to give medical advice and people should also be following those who are giving medical advice and facts about the pandemic including the CDC, New Jersey Department of Health, New Jersey Health Department, the Govenor’s office, Attorney General and the local police department.

“As of yesterday afternoon there were 468 positive cases in Ocean County, 12 of which in Barnegat; we are not provided with the names of the affected persons. Increased testing and increased reporting contribute to revelation of more positive cases – 2,492 new positive cases statewide were reported yesterday,” he added. “Health officials are especially attuned to situations where there was contact within six-feet for ten minutes or more. I am not a medical doctor and, as all should, defer to the counsel of those qualified in this area.”

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Novak said his job right now is continuity of township operations and to safeguard his community through whatever tools are available to him.

“Television, radio, the internet, newspapers and news media generally as well social media provide information, counsel advice and guidance pretty much non-stop,” Novak added. “Unless a medical doctor or infectious disease expert, a local mayor can offer little to the conversation and not use this terrible situation to advance their name recognition or political presence.”

While Novak works to get his community safely to the other side of the global pandemic, he’s still also running for Congress, but campaigning has been put on the backburner.   As for the coronavirus, Novak said residents should be in tune with the specific agencies and authorities at the state, county and federal levels and with their own physicians about medical advice regarding coronavirus.

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