WESTFIELD, NJ — Beginning Tuesday, all “non-essential businesses” in the town’s special improvement district will be closed to foot traffic in an effort to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, the mayor said Sunday night.

Mayor Shelley Brindle announced what she described as the “unprecedented measures” as the number of COVID-19 cases in New Jersey rose to at least 98, including four “presumptive positive” cases of the virus in Union County, state Health Department figures showed as of 5 p.m. Among those cases is the first Westfield case, a person in his or her 40s who “remains stable and is managing symptoms at home,” Brindle said.

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“We will be closing foot traffic within all non-essential businesses in the downtown Special Improvement District (SID), with the exception of pharmacies, health care providers and grocery stores,” Brindle said in her statement. “We are allowing for restaurant pick-up and deliveries.”

Brindle said the town is asking all non-essential businesses outside the town’s special improvement district with public interaction to also comply with the request to not accept foot traffic, including restaurants, shops, gyms and daycare centers that have remained open to the public.

“While we have not yet taken the additional step of declaring a State of Emergency that would legally require these closures, we are prepared to do so if we believe the public is endangered,” Brindle said in her statement. “I recognize how difficult this is for our businesses, but in consultation with various professionals, it is clear that we cannot afford to wait any longer to further mitigate the spread of this pandemic.”

On Sunday night, hand sanitizers were on offer for patrons at 16 Prospect Wine Bar & Bistro in Westfield where patrons listened to a keyboardist play “The Hokey Pokey.” (Live music is a nightly feature at 16 Prospect.)

“I’m not happy about the situation, but if shutting things down for a little bit keeps people from getting ill or, worse yet, dying then we have to do what we have to do,” said Chris Boyle, who owns and operates the bar with his brother, Tim.

Tim Boyle added that the restaurant had already seen an increase in takeout orders over the course of the past week.

In an effort to support its local businesses, Brindle said, the town would be working with businesses to facilitate online ordering.

“While our businesses will be closed to foot traffic, the Town and the DWC are working together to establish a Virtual Downtown model that promotes all restaurants and retailers providing phone/email/online ordering, as well as delivery and storefront/curbside pick-up,” Brindle said.

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“To that end, the Westfield Police Department will be suspending all parking meter enforcement until further notice for better access to curbside pick-up in support of our businesses, and our three parking enforcement officers will be refocused to help facilitate an efficient process for all.”

She said details on delivery options would be posted to the website of the Downtown Westfield Corporation, the government entity managing the town’s special improvement district.

While public parks remain open, Brindle said, playgrounds and fields “will be closed to discourage organized group gatherings, effective immediately. Please comply with these closures voluntarily so that we do not have to utilize valuable WPD resources enforcing them.”

Email Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net | Twitter: @MattKadosh

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