Camden County, NJ officials announce new efforts to fight delta variant of COVID-19

As cases rise, the city of Camden's mayor wants vaccinations to rise.
CAMDEN, New Jersey (WPVI) -- You don't have to go far in Camden County, New Jersey to find someone who's concerned about Covid-19.

"With the new incoming, the new strain coming, we don't know what we got," said Bryon Wallace of Sicklerville.

"I'm very concerned," said Craig Smith of Erial.

Some of the residents who are concerned brought those concerns and questions to Camden County and city officials, as they submitted questions in a virtual town hall spurred on by the rapidly-spreading delta variant of Covid-19.

According to Camden County Commissioner Director Louis Capelli, Jr., the delta variant has doubled the county's Covid cases in the past week. The increase is even more dramatic over the past several weeks.

"We're averaging about 52 cases a day," said Capelli. "Three weeks ago, we were averaging 8 or 9 a day."

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As cases rise, the city of Camden's mayor wants vaccinations to rise.

"My new goal for Camden is 70% (vaccination rate). If we can get up to 70% we can move forward," said Camden Mayor Victor Carstarphen, noting that vaccinations among children ages 12-17 are particularly low.

According to the Action News Data team, only 50% of adults in the city of Camden are fully vaccinated. In Camden County, that number is 63.7%. That's less than the state vaccination rate for adults, which is 70.7%

"So many people don't want to get the shot in the first place," said Cindy Land of Sicklerville. "With the new variant, yeah, it does make me scared."

Officials say they'll begin a new push to encourage more people to get the vaccine.

"We're going to try public education, pop up vaccination sites and really try to get to those who have not yet been vaccinated," said Capelli.

Part of the new vaccine effort involves reaching out to underserved communities, people of color and Spanish-speaking residents.

"Knocking on doors, talking to residents. I'll be out there with my bullhorn," said Mayor Carstarphen.

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As residents submitted their questions online in Tuesday's town hall, others shared their concerns in person with Action News.

"My main concern is my children," said Craig Smith of Erial as he retrieved a facemask from his car before going into a convenience store. "I'm more concerned for my children right now. Schools are not even making them wear masks."

Capelli says many schools in the area are currently discussing the safest way to approach the upcoming school year.

"I think testing of students is going to become very big in the fall," he said.

Residents also wonder if mask mandates are coming back.

"I think it's something the governor is considering, but he certainly hasn't made a commitment one way or another," said Capelli.

The wave of cases involving the delta variant is also a concern for businesses.

Capelli announced that Camden County would be helping small business owners with the return of its Camden County Cares small business grants program. The program makes $10 million in funding available to help businesses impacted by Covid.

Capelli says the application process for businesses will open soon.

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