Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said Monday he was enacting sweeping restrictions on businesses, travel, and public and private gatherings in some of the neighborhoods hardest hit by COVID-19, as the city finds itself as ground zero for a second wave of outbreaks.
“The people who live in this community are more likely to catch COVID-19 than anybody else and are more likely to die,” Baraka said on a Monday evening Facebook Live announcement. “We need another remedy. We need another prescription.”
Baraka said the restrictions were triggered in part by a citywide positivity rate of 19%, compared to the statewide infection rate of over 7.5%. And the rates have soared closer to 35% in three zip codes in the East Ward and North Newark: 07104, 07105 and 07107.
Businesses in those three zip codes have to shut down and non-essential travel must halt by 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. during the weekends, while pharmacies might soon be added to that list. The order stays in effect until Dec. 31.
“All businesses are shut down. We want it completely shut down in those zip codes,” Baraka said.
Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday announced a similar curfew for indoor dining, which beginning on Thursday has to cease operations at 10 p.m. every night. Outdoor dining, takeout and delivery can still continue operations.
Bar seating is no longer allowed, with Murphy and New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli saying infections have been traced back to bartenders and patrons.
“There is more than anecdotal evidence that as the night wears on, for probable reasons that are obvious, people let their hair down and they are gathering,” the governor said.
“We’ve seen this in Newark, for instance, and the mayor and I talked about it, and in the East Ward as an example. Folks are just sort of not distancing as they should, even when they’re seated.”
Baraka said that in these three zip codes, indoor and outdoor gatherings will be limited to 10 people, while Thanksgiving gatherings will be limited to just immediate families. Sports activities will be banned for two weeks.
Masks have to be worn at any religious institution, and at restaurants when people are not eating. Visitation at long-term health care facilities is barred, while it’s limited to one non-essential visitor per day at any senior housing.
A prior order expired that enacted restaurant closures at 10 p.m.
Citywide, non-essential businesses like restaurants have to close at 10 p.m. Meanwhile, nail and hair salons can open by appointment only, while gyms and health clubs have to close for “half an hour each hour for sanitizing,” reads a statement from the city.
Other cities have followed suit though, including Paterson and Hoboken, which is also cracking down on large indoor gatherings. Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, nonetheless, has resisted local business restrictions.
Businesses that fail to comply would face a 48-hour closure for a first violation, a two-week shutdown for a second offense and a 30-day shutdown for a third offense. A fourth offense could mean a loss of the owner’s business license.
New Jersey has seen more than 2,000 daily cases over the past week and a half, and more than a combined 9,000 new cases over the weekend. Most of those are from Essex County, driven by outbreaks in Newark.
Meanwhile, total COVID-19 hospitalizations have gradually crept up, having hit 1,500 patients, the governor announced on Monday.
During the outbreak’s peak in April, New Jersey saw more than 4,300 new cases a day, and over 6,000 total COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated on Nov. 10, 2020 at 3:20 p.m. EST to provide more specifics on the restrictions.