HOBOKEN - Officials in Hoboken are reporting a two-day total of 13 new COVID-19 cases, representing the highest spike in coronavirus since mid-May. More than just bad luck, these 13 cases are specifically linked to travel in and out of our region.
"What the Hoboken Health Department has observed with the recent two-day spike of 13 cases on Thursday and Friday, thanks to their quick and diligent contact tracing, is that all 13 of the new cases traveled for work or pleasure outside of Hoboken to states with rising COVID-19 rates," said Mayor Ravi Bhalla, at a press conference earlier today. "Twelve of the 13 went to states on New Jersey’s quarantine list, including Florida, Texas, North Carolina and South Carolina. The very clear, common thread is that all 13 cases traveled to states with alarming rates of rising COVID-19 – states which opened up too early and are now suffering the repercussions."
Bhalla added, "To clarify a common question, none of these new cases in June were linked to Hoboken’s peaceful demonstration for racial justice, as we’ve mentioned previously."
Earlier this week, the Mayor spoke of his concerns about gatherings for 4th of July, which may promote the spread of the disease.
"If residents aren’t careful, and we don’t take this initial trend here in Hoboken seriously, which is bound to be replicated in municipalities across the state, we could set our region back further to the point where we have to resort to stay at home orders, close local businesses, and more," said Bhalla.
Since June 20, Hoboken has seen 30 new cases. The Health Hoboken Department and Riverside Medical Group's Dr. Guarang Brahmbhatt were able to determine that these cases primarily tested positive after traveling to out-of-state COVID hotspots. All the recent cases are individuals under the age of 45—most between the ages of 20 and 35. Each attended gatherings with groups of people in both in indoor and outdoor settings.
"By now, most older, at-risk individuals are taking necessary precautions," noted Dr. Brahmbhatt, whose Riverside Medical Group clinic at 14th & Jefferson Streets in Hoboken was among the first in the state to offer rapid testing and test asymptomatic patients.
"COVID-19 prevention is and continues to be a local response," said Lynette Medieros, of the Hoboken Health Department. "We are currently on call 24/7. Our motto in public health is to prevent, promote and protect."
Directives from the City and the Health Department include:
- Wear a face mask and always social distance at least six feet from others at all times. We keep saying this over and over, but health experts say that this is by far and away the best way to help curb the spread of COVID-19. Others wear face masks to protect you, and you should in turn wear one to protect others.
- Avoid any type of gatherings. If you’re in a gathering in any situation, especially a hot spot state, you’re putting yourself at risk. Don’t place yourself in settings where social distancing is not possible.
- If you are meeting friends and family, do so outdoors, and avoid any physical contact. We know that outdoors is much safer than indoor settings, and social distancing while not sharing any food or drinks is critical. Avoid any type of indoor gathering that isn’t with immediate members of your household
- When you return to Hoboken, self-quarantine yourself and get tested for COVID-19 at least 5-7 days after returning. Residents should not get a test within the first 24 hours or less than 5 days after returning as getting a test too early could lead to a false negative. In Hoboken, we’re fortunate that we have a public testing site right here in our mile square, and receiving a test is easy – all you have to do is call 201-420-5621 on our City Hall hotline, and you’re eligible for a 15-minute rapid result test. And, if you don’t have insurance, the City will pay for the cost of your test. Already, 5,000 residents and business employees have gotten tested at this site.
- Even after you get a test, and it’s negative, you still must quarantine for the remainder of the 14 days.
On the now-polarizing topic of masks, Dr. Brahmbhatt told reporters that concerns over impacts on breathing were unfounded.
"It's simply not true," said the career medical professional, who spends most of his day wearing a protective mask. "Masks are specifically designed to allow for breathing. If worn properly, there should be no negative impact."
When asked if there was a specific point when Hoboken would consider reinstating stay-at-home orders and business closures, Mayor Bhalla said, "There's no line, and while we're currently facing challenges with certain establishments, we don't want to go back to the Spring Break like atmosphere we saw on March 14" —the day Hoboken closed its bars for what turned out to be three months.
One factor that could bring about a second lockdown would be a spike in hospitalizations. Of the recent positive cases, all are said to be self-quarantining at home.
"Now is the exact time to double-down on our efforts," said Bhalla. "If we don't do it now, it's going to be a lot worse."