59 closures and counting — COVID-19’s impact on NJ MVC locations
More than half a dozen New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission agency locations are closed through at least the beginning of next week due to positive coronavirus tests.
These closures represent just a fraction of the agency's shutdowns of individual locations over the past several months, as it attempts to continue serving the public during a global pandemic.
When a full-time employee who's been at the office tests positive for the virus, the agency shuts it down — typically for two weeks since the employee's last day on the job.
So since reopening to the public in early July, the MVC has had to stop operations at agencies about 60 times times due to COVID-19, according to data provided to New Jersey 101.5.
"The reason that we close for that number of days is, we quarantine all of our employees who came in contact with that employee," said Sue Fulton, MVC chief administrator. "We clean every night, and we will do a special-attention cleaning if there's a COVID-positive."
Fulton said the MVC has more than 2,000 customer-facing employees across 39 agencies in the Garden State. And while agencies can keep customers separated indoors, and keep employees separated from customers, close employee interaction is impossible to avoid.
"Our employees are essentially in a pod. They're constantly moving back and forth in a space that doesn't give them a lot of room to social distance," Fulton said. "Our employees are interacting so often that we do need to quarantine them unless we can verify through contact tracing that they did not come into contact with that employee who tested positive."
Fulton noted the MVC does not have "employees in reserve" for situations like these.
"This is an all-hands-on-deck situation, and it has been such since July," she said.
If you happen to follow the MVC on social media, you've likely seen posts notifying the public of impending closures due to positive COVID-19 tests. Temporary closures were announced 24 times in December alone. Closures are also constantly updated on the agency's website, and those whose appointments would be affected by a closure get notified by email.
A positive case also has the ability to just limit operations, instead of stopping them altogether — if a part-time, Saturday-only employee tests positive, for example, a location may be able to operate safely with reduced staff.
Some closures have had to be extended due to additional coronavirus cases among staff, but according to the MVC, no employee-to-employee transmission has been proven through contact tracing. The MVC on Wednesday announced that the closure of the Delanco Licensing Center will last until Jan. 15 instead of Jan. 12.
As of Thursday afternoon, the following centers remained closed:
- Manahawkin Vehicle Center - (reopening Tuesday, Jan 12.)
- Toms River Licensing Center - (reopening Tuesday, Jan 12.)
- Edison Licensing Center - (reopening Tuesday, Jan 12.)
- South Plainfield Licensing Center - (reopening Friday, Jan 15.)
- Somerville Vehicle Center - (reopening Friday, Jan 15.)
- Delanco Licensing Center - (reopening Friday, Jan 15.)
- Springfield Vehicle Center - (reopening Tuesday, Jan 19.)
"We are going to put safety first," Fulton added. "We don't want Motor Vehicle to be the source of spreading COVID-19. So there are going to be a lot of closures, it's going to happen."
Many routine transactions can be completed online, including license renewals. There are certain tasks, though, that do require an in-person visit, by walk-in or appointment.
A handful of agency locations have been closed more than once since the summer, including Paterson Licensing & Regional Center, Runnemede Vehicle Center, Rahway Licensing Center, Eatontown Licensing & Regional Center, and Flemington Licensing Center, among others.
"We've been tremendously impacted by COVID-19, but I think it's just a very visible sign of what's going on everywhere else in New Jersey, and in the country, for that matter," Fulton said.
Contact reporter Dino Flammia at email@example.com.