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Governor’s Chart Listing 08873 As COVID ‘Hot Spot’ Draws Officials’ Ire

Gov. Phil Murphy displayed this chart during his April 6 coronavirus update.

A state-issued chart listing 08873 as one of seven New Jersey ZIP Codes that are expected to yield the most coronavirus cases in the near future caused some consternation among township officials when it was released.

Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration has in the days following the chart’s release walked back from its predictions, and also has declined to comment on the chart or the methodology behind it.

The chart was released during Murphy’s April 6 coronavirus update. Prepared by the state Office on Innovation, the chart shows the seven ZIP Codes that “are predicted to yield the most positive cases in the coming days.”

Besides 08873, which is the Somerset section of the township, listed were ZIP Codes for Passaic, Perth Amboy, North Brunswick, West New York, North Bergen and Clifton.

According to the chart, data for the predictions was gathered from the state’s self-assessment web site, where residents can check if they have coronavirus symptoms.

“Use this self-assessment tool to determine what actions you can take to protect you and your loved ones’ health and help determine whether you should be tested for COVID-19,” the site’s instructions read.

The first question asked in the self-assessment is the respondent’s ZIP Code.

When asked about the chart, Murphy spokeswoman Alexandra Altman declined to comment.

During his April 9 virtual “town hall” on the impact of coronavirus on the township, Mayor Phil Kramer said he “made a lot of noise” about the chart when he saw it on the state Department of Health’s Facebook page.

“And my objection was not that if Franklin was a hot spot, but if it is a hot spot, it’s appropriate to let people know,” he said. Kramer said he was not called so that he could ask about the methodology behind the prediction, “so I could give a judgment to that.”

“Neighboring hospitals, if they were called, I wasn’t told about that, one would think they’d be aware,” he said. “One would think that our police officers and other first responders should know about that, and I wasn’t” told that they were, he said.

Speaking of how the poll was conducted, Kramer said the “methodology is terrible.”

Freeholder Director Shanel Robinson, a township resident, said she took up the issue with a member of the governor’s office.

“I said to them it was not a good idea and it was misleading,” Robinson said. “My suggestion was to put a disclaimer or remove it.”

“Anyone can go on that site several times a day … so I would not rely on those numbers to do an analysis or determine a trend,” she said.

“She said thank you and they understood,” Robinson said.

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