NEWARK, NJ — The positive test results keep coming, and so do new regulations from Newark officials as they try to flatten the curve in the state’s largest city: Mayor Ras Baraka announced today that residents will now be expected to wear protective masks when they leave the house.
Baraka’s newest requirement comes as the city’s case count jumps to 785 and 21 deaths, with the state’s resting at 25,590 positives and 537 deaths. New Jersey remains the second-leading state in positive cases behind New York.
According to Baraka, all ICU beds at University Hospital, a trauma center, are filled. A spokesperson for University Hospital could not be reached for comment, but Baraka said an overflow site for patients who do not have COVID-19 has been identified.
The state announced this week it will finally open a FEMA field hospital, also for non-COVID-19 patients, at the Meadowlands Convention Center as the surge prepares to break over the entire state.
On Monday, the city will begin to move its positive homeless individuals, many of which are in the hospital, into quarantine sites. One of the sites is located at the former Newark Renaissance House, a former addiction treatment center on Norfolk Street.
It was not clear how the city would be enforcing the policy, though Baraka said police would "send you back in the house" if residents are seen outside without protection. A spokesperson could not be reached for comment regarding how residents could obtain PPE at a time shortages are rampant.
Baraka called on President Donald Trump to employ the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and centralize the national economy to regulate the production, distribution and sale of masks. The White House appeared to be moving toward similar regulations regarding masks Thursday evening.
“We need the president to use the authority and his power,” Baraka said. “During this time, the president has the authority to centralize the economy, to force companies to make these products and distribute them. We need that, we’re running out of resources not just in New Jersey, but across the country.”
Without regulation, Baraka said private companies might begin competing and price gouging for masks, especially considering the financial desperation many manufacturers are feeling the wake of the pandemic.
“All these private companies begin competing and charging prices for these masks that are ridiculous. Masks that were once .75 are $20,” he said.