How Union County wound up one of the safest COVID spots in U.S.
I grew up in Union County, New Jersey. Specifically in Rahway in the county’s southern end. Geographically Rahway is only 4 square miles and has a population of about 30,000.
To put into perspective how crowded my hometown is, consider first that the United States’ population per square mile is 94. New Jersey, one of the densest population grids on the planet, has an average 1,211 people per square mile. Rahway? 7,500 people per square mile.
That’s what it’s like in Union County. The county is one of the smallest geographically in New Jersey yet its population is well over half a million.
So with people living on top of each other how did Union County come to have one of the safest COVID-19 transmission rates in not only in New Jersey but the whole country?
First of all the CDC categories thousands of counties across the United States regarding transmission rate as high, substantial, moderate and finally low. According to nj.com Union County is one of only 52 in the country in the low category and is the only one in New Jersey to have fought its way back to a low designation.
How many of the nation’s counties are in worse shape? 2,656 are still at high, 360 at substantial and 148 at moderate. For a county so densely populated that’s pretty remarkable.
So how did they do it?
Alexander Mirabella, Union County Commissioner Board Chairman, says, “I think we took COVID-19 serous from day one.”
My hometown county of Union was among the very first to require county employees be immunized or be tested frequently. 80% of county workers are vaccinated against COVID-19. When the pandemic first broke they were very quick to offer free mass testing. My mom, who lives in Union County in Linden, received her first test at Kean University.
The county launched mobile testing units to get to elderly people who couldn’t get out and even homeless people who many wouldn’t think about. The county was smart enough to know the virus doesn’t care if you have any address and the spread could be carried by the homeless too. 72% of those eligible for a vaccine have gotten it.
Another thing I’ve noticed anecdotally is that I rarely saw anyone in Union County defying mask orders or giving up masks freely once the Delta variant caused a new surge. People there took it seriously and it’s paid off. With a low transmission rate back, the people who would have gotten infected and the small percentage of those who would have died will never know who are they are. But I’m sure they’d feel lucky to live in Union County.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski. Any opinions expressed are Jeff Deminski's own.