By Bradford Mason
New Jersey is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases and officials are doing everything possible to contain the spread.
On Tuesday, Nov. 9, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that New Jersey saw 2,075 positive cases, bringing the statewide cumulative total to 256,653. During a four-day period the state averaged 2,381 cases a day The positivity for all tests recorded as of Nov. 5 is 7.52%.
Countries seeing high infections rates include Bergen. Burlington, Camden, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Passaic, Union and Morrison.
This past week, we saw the highest numbers of cases yet,” U.S Sen. Cory Booker said. “We have to show that commitment to work through the fatigue of this virus, to make sure that we keep each other safe. We have to listen to our health experts. We have to continue to use extreme caution. We have to wear our masks and practice social distancing where we can.”
This week, Murphy announced new COVID-19 mitigation measures. The measures include restrictions on seating and hours for restaurants, bars, clubs, and lounges, and prohibition of interstate indoor K-12 and youth sports. Murphy said that many are feeling “pandemic fatigue” and that the virus is being spread as social venus like bars and restaurants.
“Looking at the data, we are taking surgical steps that we hope will help mitigate the current increasing rate of spread,” Murphy said. “No one up here wants to take the type of broad and all-encompassing actions like those we had to take in March; we are acting with more precision-based actions based on what we’re seeing on the ground.”
Going into effect Thursday, Nov. 12, all restaurants, bars, clubs and lounges that serve food and drink must close their indoor premises for business by 10 p.m. each day and cannot open again until 5 a.m. the following day. Outdoor dining may continue past 10 p.m. as can takeout or delivery services. The time restriction for indoor dining also includes casinos. Gaming operations may continue but after 10 p.m., no food or drink will be available to anyone inside casinos.
All bar-side seating will be prohibited at all hours for the immediate future. Restaurants relying on bars can have 25% capacity by placing tables closer than six feet, but only if they are separated by barriers. Individual, fully enclosed dining bubbles can be set up for outside use. The tents, which may be heated, must be limited to only one group of diners each and must be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized between uses.
All interstate games and tournaments for indoor youth sports, up to and including high school, are prohibited for the time being.
Newark is one of the Garden State’s COVID-19 hotspots. The city is seeing a 19% positivity rate. Reports indicate that one in five resident testing for COVID-19 have tested positive for the virus in Newark with 13,225 positive cases and 680 deaths as of Nov. 11.
“Newark’s prescription is not the state’s prescription,” said Mayor Ras Baraka. “Newark’s test positivity rate is at 19 percent, while New Jersey’s is at 7.74 percent – more than double. Stricter measures are required in the city’s hotspots in order to contain the virus and limit the spread. I know we are all tired, but the virus is not, therefore we must remain vigilant and do what is necessary to get this under control and save lives.”
In a new round of mitigation effort rolled out this week, non-essential businesses must close at 8 p.m. including restaurants and eateries to end dining-in at the same time. Beauty salons, nail salons, and barbershops can remain open but by appointment only, and gyms and health clubs must close for half an hour each hour for sanitizing. The City will reassess the situation after Tuesday, Dec. 1, to determine the next steps.
There are also curfews in effect for certain zip codes seeing a high number of COVID-19 cases. For zip codes 07104, 07105, and 07107, a mandatory curfew is imposed. All activities must close at 8 p.m., due to a 9 p.m. curfew on weekdays, and a 10 p.m. curfew on weekends, unless traveling to or from work or if there is an emergency. In 07104, the boundaries are 7th Avenue to 2nd Avenue and from Broadway to Clifton Avenue. In 07105, this is the entire area, not including the airport or the highways. In 07107, the boundaries are 3rd Avenue North to Berkeley Avenue, and from North 3rd Street to 11th Street.
Other restrictions include gatherings and/or events being limited to no more than 10 people, religious services functioning at 25% capacity and no holiday gatherings, including Thanksgiving, or events of 10 people or more at restaurants.
Dr. Mark Wade, Director of the Department of Health and Community Wellness for the City of Newark said, “The most potent immunization we have available is a decision to take personal responsibility to obey and model the recommendations that keep us all safe. We need each other to get us through this and to save lives.”