COVID-19 Lockdowns, Restrictions Return Throughout Most of the U.S.
D. Kevin McNeir
Executive Editor, New Jersey Urban News
With just days remaining before Thanksgiving, the U.S. reported close to 200,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, Nov. 20 – a record-high spike – prompting a bevy of new restrictions issued by many of the nation’s governors and mayors.
The total number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. shows no sign of abating, reaching 11,843,490 on Nov. 21 according to the Centers for Disease Control [CDC] with 1,885 new deaths and 253,600 total deaths. Across the country, more than 82,100 people count among those hospitalized due to COVID-19 – the nation’s highest since the pandemic began based on data from the COVID Tracking Project.
States with the most significant increases in new positive cases and new deaths, respectively, included: Texas, 5,206, 130; California, 5, 538, 15; Illinois, 11,891, 157; Georgia, 6,209, 37; 6,224, 51; Ohio, 7,863, 29; Michigan, 7,840, 101; Pennsylvania, 5,874, 113; and New Jersey, 2,985, 28.
New Jersey Officials Advise Residents to Hunker Down
In Newark, Mayor Ras Baraka recently told residents he’ll issue a 10-day stay-at-home advisory starting the day before Thanksgiving, advising “everybody close down” and get tested during the holiday season.
Streets leading into the city’s hard-hit Ironbound District will be closed for non-residents, 8 p.m. – 3 a.m., in the zip code 07105 on Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving as a means of enforcing an existing curfew. Only those who can show proof of residency will be allowed access to the area.
The stay-at-home advisory will be enforced until Friday, Dec. 4.
Baraka said the new restrictions must be taken seriously.
“We are advising all stores non-essential and the corner stores too – everybody close down,” Baraka said. “Not just the stores. Workplaces, barber shops, beauty parlors, gyms, everything shut down from Wednesday, Nov. 25 to Dec. 4.”
“We are giving you a chance to prepare. We are asking everything to be shut down. Shut it all down. And during that period, we are asking everyone to get tested. You should (go) outside only if you are getting tested, only if you need groceries, Pampers, milk or medicine. All of us – we need to do this,” the mayor added.
In some parts of Newark, the infection rate has risen as high as 30 percent.
Meanwhile, with COVID-19 cases trending upward throughout the state, many anticipate that another complete shutdown remains imminent.
Officials in Hoboken have recently boosted tracing efforts, now requiring restaurants, bars, gyms and other businesses to collect contact information. The information will be used by the Hoboken Health Department only if a positive case arises. To meet demand, the city has also expanded opportunities for testing.
On Nov. 19 in Jersey City, Mayor Steven Fulop announced a multi-faceted approach to combat the current spike in COVID-19 cases throughout the region including an increase in rapid response tests and an expansion in mobilized testing efforts targeting hotspots and vulnerable populations.
Under the city’s Mask Up JC initiative, New Jersey City will also provide over 1 million free masks to the public.
Gov. Phil Murphy described the latest numbers as “grim and sobering,” noting that the state could soon record between 8,000 and 10,000 new cases daily as well as deaths in the triple digits. Murphy urged residents to avoid gatherings with anyone outside their immediate family, especially during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.
New York’s Mayor de Blasio Predicts Closures after Thanksgiving
Residents of New York City should anticipate that indoor dining, gyms and salon will close “soon after Thanksgiving, probably the first week of December,” Mayor Bill de Blasio predicted Nov. 20 during his weekly radio program.
“I don’t say that with anything but sorrow,” he said.
However, the mayor remained at odds with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on the date when the city might reach the state’s so-called “orange zone” – a seven-day average COVID-positivity rate of 3 percent. Per the state’s metrics, reaching orange zone status would trigger the closing of non-essential businesses and limit capacity at houses of worship, among other restrictions.
Under its own metrics, the city reported it had hit 3 percent on Nov. 19 leading to the mayor’s decision to close public schools for in-person learning.
However, due to differences in how they collect data, the state’s and city’s COVID-19 numbers aren’t the same. Based on the state’s data, the city’s tally stood at 2.5 percent while the city’s data indicated a positive rate of 3.07 percent, both on Nov. 19.
And while New York’s positivity rate stands at the lowest in the Tri-State region, officials continue to warn residents that new restrictions are imminent.
“We cannot wait until it’s too late,” de Blasio said. “We have to put restrictions in place now.”
Responding to public criticism that he wants to destroy the upcoming holidays, de Blasio said, “For the record, I love Thanksgiving and I celebrate Christmas with my family. But we have to keep people alive so they can celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
This reporter spoke with his youngest child – a millennial – who has lived in New York City just over four years about his concerns.
“I understand the restrictions being proposed and helpful but at the same time I’m concerned about small business owners,” said Jared McNeir, 26.
“The state’s shutting down everything and that’s necessary. But the federal government must provide financial assistance. Americans tend to think as individuals and that’s the reason for part of the pushback. But people need to more willingly comply. I think they will if they believe that their individual needs will continue to be met,” McNeir said.