NEWARK, NJ — For the first time since the summer of 2020, Newark recorded a lower test positivity rate for COVID-19 than the state. 

Between Feb. 13 and 15, the city’s three-day rolling average positivity rate reduced from 15.1% to 9.95%, just lower than the state at 10.8%, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka reported on Friday during his Facebook Live COVID-19 Update. The mayor also said that the city recorded a seven-day rolling average rate at 10.07% the same week. 

The announcement comes as the city continues to navigate its way through the pandemic by stepping up vaccine distribution to its underserved communities and lifting partial restrictions on businesses and restaurants. 

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Last week, Baraka stood alongside several community religious leaders as they received their vaccines at the Department of Health and Community Wellness on William Street, encouraging residents to follow suit. 

Following a decision from the city earlier this month to increase indoor business capacity from 25% to 35% for two weeks, the mayor's announcement could be a sign of optimism for local businesses if the test positivity rate stays consistent. 

“If we continue to do what we are doing for two more weeks, store owners and restaurants that want to stay open later — two more weeks of this,” he said. “Following these instructions and doing what’s right — we can open up further.” 

In November 2020, the city’s test positivity rate was 21%, nearly twice that of the state’s at the time with the East Ward particularly reporting an alarming 41% positivity rate. Just before the holiday season commenced, Baraka urged all Newark residents and businesses to follow the guidelines and instructions. 

“We cannot risk a continual spread of COVID-19 in our community,” he said in November. “We cannot go back to where we were in April and May. But what we can do is urge everyone to be responsible, cautious and think of the greater good. People’s lives depend on this.”

As the new year approached, state and county officials pushed to roll out vaccines to minority communities. A day after Gov. Phil Murphy addressed his plan to provide equitable distribution of the vaccine to the state’s Black and brown communities, Essex County officials announced the formation of a partnership with local religious leaders to springboard this effort, starting in Newark, East Orange, and Bloomfield. 

As of Feb. 22, county officials reported four new deaths in Newark and recorded 86 new cases between Sunday and Monday.

Essex County is operating five vaccination centers. The locations and the municipalities served at each site are as follows:

  • Essex County College, 303 University Ave., Newark (Gym entrance on West Market Street): Newark, Belleville, East Orange, Irvington and Orange.

  • Essex County Donald M. Payne, Sr. School of Technology, 498-544 West Market Street, Newark: Newark, East Orange, Irvington and Orange. (This site will open in January 2021)

  • Former Kmart building, 235 Prospect Ave., West Orange: West Orange, Cedar Grove, Essex Fells, Montclair, Newark, Nutley and Verona.

  • Livingston Mall, former Sears building, 112 Eisenhower Parkway, Livingston (Entrance is in the back): Livingston, Belleville, Maplewood, Millburn, Newark, Orange and South Orange.

  • Essex County West Caldwell School of Technology, 620 Passaic Ave., West Caldwell: West Caldwell, Bloomfield, Caldwell, Fairfield, Glen Ridge, Newark, North Caldwell and Roseland.

Residents can make appointments at www.EssexCOVID.org or by calling 973-877-8456.

 

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