(Updated Friday March 13 at 10:30 a.m.)
Mayor James Davis has declared a State of Emergency in Bayonne to prepare for COVID-19, the novel coronavirus.
Mayor Davis declared the State of Emergency on March 12, announcing the emergency declaration through a robo-call to all residents. The State of Emergency announcement is precautionary, as there are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the city.
“As of 1:30pm today, I am declaring a State of Emergency in Bayonne as we prepare to deal with the Coronavirus,” Mayor Davis stated in his announcement. “As of this time, we have no Bayonne residents that have been identified with the COVID-19 virus, and I am taking this action to ensure that we are prepared.”
According to Mayor Davis, this action was necessary as the COVID-19 virus situation escalates. Davis said that the city is entering a period where daily life will be changing.
“The Coronavirus is now a pandemic, and as a result, we must all be vigilant, not only regarding our own health, but also the health of our neighbors,” Mayor Davis explained. “There is certainly no need for panic and no need for extreme action.”
The State of Emergency declaration is the result of a buildup of preparations for COVID-19 since before the first presumptive positive case was identified in New Jersey.
Previously, Mayor Davis established a COVID-19 Task Force in the city composed of EMS, police, and fire officials among other vital city agencies. Chief of Operations at McCabe Ambulance, Mike McCabe, told the Bayonne Community News that Bayonne EMS is prepared to handle COVID-19 in the city.
“My Office of Emergency Management team and all the medical service entities in Bayonne are actively preparing for any course of action that may be required,” Mayor Davis continued. “Plans are in place and ready to be put into effect if needed.”
Public gatherings cancelled
Part of those plans include the enforcement of “social distancing” policies. Mayor Davis advised the public to remain calm as a number of public events among other things are cancelled or postponed in preparation for the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is not a time for panic, it is a time to take prudent precautions,” Mayor Davis stated. “As a result, this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade is being postponed.”
The parade and other public gatherings in the city are being postponed or cancelled as part of the COVID-19 preparations recommended early today by Gov. Phil Murphy. According to Gov. Murphy, all public gatherings of more than 250 people should be cancelled to avoid community spread of the virus.
Mayor Davis acknowledged that residents may be upset about the cancellations but reiterated that the health and safety of the residents of Bayonne are his priority.
“As mayor, I cannot, in good conscience allow for such a large public gathering that draws people from dozens of communities to take place,” Mayor Davis said. “I know this announcement will disappoint many people, but the health of our residents comes first.”
Looking to the near future, Mayor Davis observed that in the upcoming days and weeks, the city will see many cancellations of public events. According to Davis, this may be the new normal in Bayonne until the COVID-19 pandemic is contained.
“For the short term, these occurrences will become the new normal,” Mayor Davis said. “With prudent action, this new normal will be short-lived and we will return to our normal lives soon.”
In addition to the cancellation of the St. Patrick’s Day festivities, schools in Bayonne will also close and switch to remote learning starting March 13 until March 30.
Despite the abrupt change in schedule for many residents, “Bayonne is a strong community,” Mayor Davis stressed. “We don’t panic, we help our neighbors, and we do what we have to, when we have to.”
Mayor Davis said that he will keep everyone informed as to what is taking place in Bayonne, and what, if any, measures we as a community will have to undertake.
No restrictions on the general public
Mayor Davis explained in an update what the State of Emergency means and what it does not mean. According to Davis, the declaration is part of the process in preparing for COVID-19.
“The SoE that I declared today is mostly a ‘process’ declaration, so that our city can procure supplies and allow us to receive assistance from the County, State or Federal governments, should funding become available,” Mayor Davis explained.
According to Davis, a State of Emergency (SoE) can be declared at the municipal, county, state, and federal level when the necessary. Mayor Davis stated that this normally happens for snow days but will now be used amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Normally, in our area we are accustomed to seeing an SoE declared during snow storms,” Mayor Davis continued. “These SoE’s also come with ‘Snow Emergency’ provisions.”
These provisions allow for certain traffic and parking regulations and snow emergency routes, etc. There have been times when a ‘Travel Restriction’ is attached to an SoE that would limit normal travel by residents due to the ice and snow.
However, there is no ‘Travel Restriction’ in effect in Bayonne. Instead the State of Emergency will also allow the city to fasttrack requests for federal funds to fight COVID-19.
“A function of the current State of Emergency is to allow our city to expedite the procurement of materials and services, as well as enable us to apply for funding from higher levels of government,” Mayor Davis stated.
To clarify, Mayor Davis elaborated that other than the cancellation of large public meetings, daily life will carry on normally. City Hall among other essential functions of the city will remain open.
“There have been NO restrictions on the general public with this SoE, other than canceling large public events, as I stated earlier,” Mayor Davis explained. “It is important to note that City Hall is open, businesses are open, parking rules remain in effect, garbage is on regular schedule, and there are no travel restrictions.”
Davis reiterated that the State of Emergency was declared out of an abundance of caution, to allow city government to do everything they can to keep the Bayonne community safe.
There is no need for panic or fear, according to Mayor Davis.
“Go about your business, but keep in mind all the tips that have been given out to help curb the spread of this virus,” Mayor Davis said. “Be safe Bayonne!”
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.