UPDATE: Newark is now saying the lockdown is an advisory only. Read an updated story here.
NEWARK, NJ — Newark officials are asking the city to shelter-in-place for the 10 days leading up to Thanksgiving as the virus’ second wave continues to escalate, but whether the reinstated lockdown is legally mandated remains unclear.
Mayor Ras Baraka and Mark Wade, director of Health and Community Wellness, went on WBGO 88.3 FM’s Newark Today last night to advise that residents must stay inside from Nov. 25 to Dec. 4.
“We are going to lock the city down,” Baraka said. “We want people to shelter in place for 10 days, that’s the period that the CDC gives us for people to isolate themselves or quarantine themselves, and we only want folks to come out for essential purposes.”
Newark continues to lead the state and Essex County in new cases, its test positivity rate reaching 20% this week. As of Friday, it’s case count increased by 164, bringing the total since March to 1,4390. While the death rate remained stable in the first two weeks of the city’s surge, it has now risen to 694 compared to around 674 in early November.
“Do not go outside if you do not have to. Do not mingle with other people if you don’t have to, stay to your family in your immediate household,” Baraka added.
In the hard-hit East Ward, Newark police are closing streets leading to the area from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. and requiring residents of the area to show proof of address to enter.
But whether the state has given Newark its blessing to go above and beyond Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive orders is unclear. On Nov. 12, Murphy signed Executive Order 195, granting permission to municipalities to regulate non-essential businesses with operating hours beyond 8 p.m.
Newark did so prior to the order, setting a curfew in area codes 07105, 07107 07104 of 9 p.m. weekday curfew and 10 p.m. for weekends. All non-essential businesses have been ordered to close at 8 p.m. since early November, all restaurants, bars, etc. must close their indoor service at 8 p.m. and outdoor service at 11 p.m.
On Friday, restaurant and business owners in the East Ward were unclear on what, exactly, the new lockdown entails for them. Neither Murphy’s office, the city of Newark Department of Public Safety would respond to requests for comment.
It is also unclear whether warnings and summonses will be issued for businesses and residents who fail to shelter in place. One East Ward restaurant said they were unsure if they will be restricted to takeout only like back in March, April and June.
“Newarkers are conscientious, they did it before. They slowed this thing down, and I think they have the will and the authority to do it again,” Baraka said Thursday. “Of course you’re going to get people opposed to it, naysayers, people running around — these people live in another world that I don’t live in, and I can’t really get engaged with that. I think most people in this town are going to do what we ask them to do.”