PATERSON, NJ -  As Paterson continues to endure a spike in COVID-19 cases, residents in New Jersey’s third largest city are being urged to rethink their Thanksgiving Day plans.

Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh reiterated guidance handed down by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy: Avoid traveling and celebrate at home with members of your immediate household.

While the CDC has not specified a limit for the number of people at Thanksgiving gatherings, Murphy has been urging New Jersey residents to keep it under 10.

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Sayegh said, “We’re encouraging residents to abide by the guidelines set by the government – limiting the number of people around the table, distancing yourself from people around the table, wearing masks – even at home – and taking them off only to eat. Also, ventilation is very important.”

With the holiday season upon us, Sayegh said he understands the disappointment and sadness some may feel at not being able to be close with loved ones this year.

“But, you have to think of it this way – we’re going to have to make a sacrifice this year, so next year we’ll be better and can have our family members around us, without any concern of compromising anyone’s immune system,” the mayor said.

The Second Wave Arrives

Statewide, a second wave of the pandemic continues to hit, with nearly 298,000 confirmed cases and 14,900 fatalities as of Friday afternoon. The spike in cases, according to state officials, is being driven by indoor gatherings, along with fatigue over the ongoing restrictions.

In Paterson, 11,041 positive cases and 355 virus-related deaths have been reported since March 16.  At the peak of the outbreak – April 16 – 262 confirmed cases were reported. On Friday, the city surpassed that number, reporting 278 positive cases.

On Saturday afternoon, Sayegh told TAPInto Paterson, “It feels like it’s more contagious than the first go around. People are interacting indoors more and some people are not only letting their guard down, but their masks down.”

In late October, as cases began to tick upward in Paterson, Sayegh implemented a new round of restrictions that called for the closure of all bars and restaurants at midnight. According to Sayegh, establishments have “for the most part” been compliant with the regulations.

The second wave also prompted the Paterson Board of Education to extend remote learning until Jan. 19, 2021.

Over the past week, two city council members – Maritza Davila and Luis Velez – announced they tested positive for coronavirus. And, Sayegh, who was infected by coronavirus last April, quarantined at home and recovered, put himself into self-isolation again after being exposed to an infected person during a Veterans Day event.

Sayegh: ‘There’s A Light At The End Of The Tunnel’

Based upon the current trajectory of numbers in New Jersey, Murphy has warned that “the next two or three months are going to be brutal.”

However, on Friday, Murphy said the Garden State could receive 130,000 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine “around Christmas” if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the pharmaceutical company’s emergency use authorization request. 

During a press conference, Murphy said, “This is not going to be the regular holiday season – from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. We have to get into a different mindset for the next six weeks, and put our health and the health of our loved ones before our want to party. We need to make it safely into 2021.”

In recent weeks, Murphy ordered restaurants and bars to close for indoor dining by 10 p.m. as part of an effort to curb the spread. Murphy also signed a new executive order giving counties and municipalities the option to force non-essential businesses to close by 8 p.m.

“We have to remain disciplined. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel – there’s two vaccines showing tremendous promise,” Sayegh said. “We’re at the bottom of the sixth inning right now.” 

“I’m preaching that 2021 should be more promising and less painful,” Sayegh said.

Since the onset of the pandemic in March, Paterson officials have been tracking everything, including the volume of virus-related EMS calls, coronavirus patient admissions, hospital bed rates, local intensive care unit capacities, recovered patient rates and how many tests are being performed.

The city was among the first in New Jersey to launch a robust contact tracing program, expanded testing locations and even added a mobile testing unit into service to help slow the spread.

So far, 34,816 tests have been administered, including 20,368 at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, 2,393 at Eastside, 3,993 at Barnett, 1,901 at Kennedy and 4,945 via the mobile site.

“We’ve really expanded testing and we’re testing hundreds of people every day,” Sayegh said.

Patersonians have also been cooperative with contact tracing efforts, which is crucial with the volume of cases, he added.

According to data provided by the city, people ages 60 or older account for 80% of virus-related deaths and the age group of 70 to 79 saw the highest number of deaths (108). Of Paterson’s six wards, the 3rd and 4th wards have reported the most deaths, 75 and 79, respectively.

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