NEWARK, NJ — The city’s COVID-19 cases are approaching peak numbers, leading Mayor Ras Baraka to issue a new executive order with more stringent health and safety restrictions than those announced in October.
Baraka took to Facebook Live on Monday to tell Newarkers that the city’s infection rate has shot up from 11% to 19% in just two weeks. Of the 689 new cases reported in Essex County on Tuesday, Newark was responsible for a whopping 407 of them.
The city’s increased measures come a day after New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy issued his own executive order, which mandates that all restaurants, bars, clubs and lounges must close indoor service between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. and prohibits bar-side seating. Currently, the state’s positivity rate sits at about 7.7%.
Baraka said that in Newark, which has remained the state’s coronavirus epicenter since nearly the onset of the outbreak, the statewide order is not enough.
“We need another remedy, we need another prescription. Our prescription is not the state’s prescription. Why? Because our cases are more and we have a higher rate of infection,” Baraka said. “The people in this community are more likely to be infected than anybody else and more likely to die based on the data.”
To date, Newark has reported 12,531 positive cases and 676 deaths, with new cases reaching 230 per day. Without intervention, Baraka said, those numbers will soon surpass the cases reported during the virus’s initial peak in April.
According to city data, the major contributors to Newark’s increases are parties and events, indoor and outdoor dining, workplaces, public transportation, sports and recreational activities and household gatherings. Baraka called on NJ Transit to increase its bus fleet and enforce a high safety standard.
“NJ Transit has to do better. They have to put more buses out there and make sure these buses are socially distanced to protect the bus drivers and the residents,” he said.
The new orders will particularly target zip codes 07104, 07105 and 07107, one of which encompasses the entire East Ward. The city’s Ironbound section, known for its dining and nightlife, was at a 25% positivity rate two weeks ago. It has since surpassed 30%.
Among the new restrictions are bans on large gatherings, including personal household gatherings during Thanksgiving. Only up to 10 people may gather at a time.
Restaurants, businesses and residents in the targeted zip codes are under a strict 9 p.m. curfew on weekdays and 10 p.m. on weekends.
Long-term health care facilities will also be shut down to visitors. During the first wave of the virus, older residents in these facilities across the state made up a huge percentage of the COVID-19 death rate.
For those partaking in fall sports, the season is on a temporary two-week pause, and all athletes, coaches and trainers must get tested for COVID-19 every week upon return. Murphy banned interstate travel for youth sports teams on Monday.
“High school kids have tested positive on teams, that’s facts. The governor stopped travel because players are getting sick. Players in multiple cities are getting sick and playing each other and getting each other sick on the field,” Baraka said.
Baraka said the city has the state’s blessing to tighten protocols as they pertain to Newark’s outbreak. The new restrictions are as follows:
- All non-essential businesses must close at 8 p.m. every day. All restaurants, bars, etc. must close their indoor service at 8 p.m. and outdoor service at 11 p.m. Due to the significant rise in COVID-19 positive cases, there is a 9 p.m. curfew in specific zip codes.
- For zip codes 07104, 07105, and 07107, a mandatory curfew is imposed. No one should be on the street after 9 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 p.m. on weekends, unless traveling to or from work or if there is an emergency.
- In 07104, the boundaries are 7th Avenue to 2nd Avenue and from Broadway to Clifton Avenue.
- In 07105, this is the entire area, not including the airport or the highways.
- In 07107, the boundaries are 3rd Avenue North to Berkley Avenue. North 3rd Street to 11th Street.
- All sports of any kind being played in the City shall cease immediately for a two-week period. During this time, all players, coaches, trainers, etc. must be tested for the COVID-19 virus and have to test negative to resume play.
- When sports resume after this two-week period, all players, coaches, trainers, staff must be tested for the COVID-19 virus every week.
- Those individuals not actively playing in the game must wear a face mask and practice social distancing (including coaches, players on the bench, referees, parents, staff, and spectators).
- The City will consider canceling, rescheduling games, and/or practices or any other activity for two (2) weeks if two or more players/employees/staff, etc. on the team test positive for the virus.
- Any team or team member that doesn’t follow the face mask protocol may be subject to having their remaining games canceled, removed from the team, or terminated.
- Gatherings and/or events are limited to no more than 10 people.
- No visitation is allowed at long term health care facilities for the next two weeks.
- Senior housing buildings residents are allowed one non-essential visitor per unit per day.
- All building managers/security must perform temperature checks of all individuals prior to entering the building. No one with a temperature higher than 100.4 degrees will be allowed inside.
- Attendance is restricted to 25% capacity.
- Anyone speaking or singing during religious services must wear a mask (including pastors while preaching).
- No one with a temperature higher than 100.4 degrees will be allowed inside.
- Restaurants, businesses, and offices must follow face mask protocols.
- All businesses must perform temperature checks of anyone entering the building and no one with a temperature higher than 100.4 degrees will be allowed inside.
- No holiday (i.e. Thanksgiving) gatherings or events of ten (10) people or more at restaurants.
- Reservations for more than ten (10) people are not allowed.
The city is also providing free pop-up testing three times a week. Here’s this week’s and next week’s schedule:
- Wednesday, Nov 11: Clinton Avenue Community Sound Stage
- Friday, Nov. 12: Showcase Laundromat, 556 Central Ave
- Monday, Nov. 16: Darcy Street and Wilson Avenue
- Wednesday, Nov. 18: First Ave School
- Friday, Nov. 20: Gladys Hillman Jones School