Newark closing most businesses at 8 p.m. — New COVID rules
Mayor Ras Baraka has followed through on his Twitter warning he would take "strong measures” deal with the recent spike in novel coronavirus cases in the city of Newark.
Newly rolled out rules will close most businesses at 8 p.m. every night for the next two weeks. Many businesses and City Hall will operate by appointment-only. Restaurants will end indoor service at 8 p.m. and outdoor service by 11 p.m.
The new measures — put in place with Gov. Phil Murphy's blessing, despite an earlier emphasis from the state on avoiding a patchwork of per-city or per-county regulations — come after Newark registered 101 new positive cases Sunday. That's more than every other city in Essex County combined.
According to the Essex County Department of Health, the total number of positive cases in Newark as of Sunday was 10,087, with 673 deaths, since the pandemic hit New Jersey in March.
New Jersey overall Monday registered its ninth straight day of more than 1,000 new cases — the highest rates the state has seen since May. Hospitalizations exceeded 900 for the first time since July. Death tolls, ICU stays and ventilator use are creeping up, but remain at a fraction of the rates New Jersey saw in the first months of the pandemic.
"We're doing it for two weeks. If we get it under control then we can make an assessment of what we do after that," Baraka said at a press conference on Monday afternoon. "But we have to get our eyes and our hands on what is happening. We believe in this two-week period we will have more definitive information about exactly where this thing is coming from."
Baraka said residents who continue to have gatherings, especially in the city's East Ward, or travel out of the city for parties after the city's businesses close are contributing to the spike.
"Too many people are becoming lackadaisical about who we allow in our house and at our events," Baraka said.
He said loud music at parties also contributes to the spread, because people talk louder.
"If you talk louder and you're not wearing a mask their droplets travel. You're possibly going to affect somebody across the room not just the people sitting next to you," Baraka said.
The mayor said Newark residents "have to consider the community before we consider ourselves. And I know it's difficult for us to do that because we've been conditioned to the opposite of that. Individualism, survivalism, survival of the fittest, every man for himself. This ideal is what's going to make this virus become more dangerous," Baraka said.
Murphy, at his own coronavirus press briefing Monday, said he was "right beside (Baraka) in the steps that he's taking, and the steps that we're taking with him." The latter include efforts to spread the word about best practices and regulations in several languages, and to increase testing and contact tracing, the governor said.
In March, Murphy signed his Executive Order No. 108 — which, in addition to setting several rules as the state began its own broad shutdown, specified that the governor would have the authority to override any local restrictions or conflicts between local and state rules. The governor said at the time while several cities and counties were trying to be proactive about coronavirus rules, government needed to speak with one voice and one strategy.
But Murphy Monday said Newark has "a painful history with what happens when this thing flairs up," and supported the city efforts.
"The executive order is still very much in place. This is literally some steps at the edges that the mayor took, which we think are some smart steps, but are not counter to our executive orders," Murphy said.
Baraka said that Newark will gain help from the state with additional rapid testing and more contact tracers as well as a space for people to safely quarantine.
The following restrictions go into effect on Tuesday in the city of Newark:
- All stores except supermarkets, pharmacies, and gas stations will close at 8 p.m. every day. They will be allowed to deliver and take out with no indoor ordering or lines.
- All restaurants, bars, etc. must close their indoor service at 8 p.m. and outdoor service at 11 p.m. They must also take temperatures of all patrons coming inside and ask them have they been in touch with anyone with COVID-19.
- All barbershops, beauty parlors, nail salons, and related establishments must have appointments only and no waiting inside.
- All gyms must clean and sanitize for the first 30 minutes of each hour. During that time, people can stay inside or return after the cleaning. Everyone must wear masks.
- All indoor establishments must have sanitizer available.
- City Hall will be open by appointment only.
- The city will close all recreation centers to everything but school-related programs for essential employees.
- All sports activities and open park practices and games in the East Ward are canceled.
- The city is encouraging all employees to be tested immediately and periodically thereafter.
- Newark is discouraging all parties, indoor and outdoor festivals, and large family gatherings until further notice.
Baraka stopped short of banning Halloween trick-or-treating but "strongly discouraged" it.