(Updated March 15)
Hoboken’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) declared a State of Emergency in the city on Thursday, March 12 as the city continues to prepare for the coronavirus pandemic.
The OEM, the city’s Department of Health and Human Services, school district Superintendent Dr. Christine Johnson, and representatives from the charter schools have decided to cancel school over the next two weeks as a cautionary measure.
State of emergency
The State of Emergency allows the OEM and the city to take proactive action in the days and weeks ahead to protect residents.
As of March 15, the city reported three positive COVID-19 cases in Hoboken.
Hoboken has canceled all “non-essential” city-run events and meetings starting March 13.
Canceled events include all city-run recreation activities and sports for children and adults, Planning Board, Zoning Board, and municipal volunteer board meetings, and the scheduled public meetings on Neumann Leathers Redevelopment Project and the NJ Transit Records Building.
The city has also closed all city recreation fields and facilities.
A City Council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 18. The Bhalla administration and Council President Jen Giattino are exploring alternative options to host the meeting.
According to Giattino, options include the possibility of residents sending in questions and comments instead of attending the council meeting to speak but still streaming the meeting, having a phone conference, or canceling the meeting outright.
The OEM has also directed that all bars and restaurant establishments, with or without a liquor license, are no longer permitted to serve food within the restaurant or bar.
If a bar does not currently offer food, they will no longer be permitted to operate and are no longer permitted to serve alcohol, as of 11 a.m. Sunday, March 15.
Any bar or restaurant establishment that currently offers food service will be permitted to conduct food takeout and food delivery service only.
OEM is also implementing a city-wide daily curfew which will be in effect from 10 p.m. through 5 a.m., starting Monday, March 16 until further notice.
During this curfew, all residents will be required to remain in their homes except for emergencies, or if they are required to work by their employer.
Street cleaning is also now suspended.
City parks will remain open with the exception of fields, recreation courts, playgrounds, and restrooms.
Daycares and pop-up camps for children are also closed.The city has closed all gyms, all health clubs, and movie theaters.
City Hall is now closed to the public but all services are available by phone, email, and online only.
Members of the public must call the respective department in City Hall and speak to a representative or leave a message, or send an email to the respective employee or department head, that can be found at http://www.hobokennj.gov and choosing the “departments” tab under “government”.
To prepare for an anticipated surge of patients, the Office of Emergency Management authorized the construction of a medical tent on Fourth Street outside of Hoboken University Medical Center.
The Health Department recommends that residents who believe they have been exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19 should contact their healthcare provider first instead of going to the emergency room.
“It is critically important for residents to stay home if you are sick and remain home for at least 24 hours until symptoms resolve,” said Bhalla. “It is essential to continue washing and sanitizing your hands frequently. Please work from home if you can for the near future.”
Schools will be closed over the next two weeks starting Monday, March 16.
“We have prepared all of our remote learning plans and everything is ready to go,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Christine Johnson.
Johnson said teachers and staff have worked collaboratively on creating at-home instruction, and the district surveyed all families regarding their access to technology and the internet so that those without access received hard copies of at-home instruction.
“We developed required lessons in math, science, language arts, social studies, and health wellness for all students for every day,” said Johnson, noting that the district is providing 10 hours of instruction.
Johnson also said plans are in place for ESL students, students with special needs, students who require speech therapy and student who require physical therapy.
“Lessons were created from a basis of activities these kids are familiar with, and will be reinforcing at home,” said Johnson, noting therapists will be checking in with students via phone and email.
The district will also provide breakfast and lunch to district students and charter school students who qualified for free and reduced lunch. Grab and go meals will be handed out at the Ninth Street entrance of Hoboken High School by the cafeteria between Clinton and Grand streets. Meal service will be available from 8:30-10:30 a.m
According to state law, absences of 10 or more days must result in disenrollment for all children in Pre-K through 12th grade, but Johnson said that students will not be given absences for the days because school instruction will still be taking place.
Stevens Institute of Technology announced the campus has not had any confirmed cases of COVID-19 but to ensure the health and safety of their community all classes have been moved online through April 5.
“This decision is based on the best public health information we have today,” states a letter to the Stevens community dated March 12 from Marybeth Murphy, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, and Vice President of Human Resources Warren Petty.
To reduce density on campus and limit potential transmission of COVID-19, some employees have been given permission to work remotely.
Students living on campus have been instructed to go home until April 5.
“University settings present unique challenges during a pandemic because of the density of students living and studying in close quarters,” the letter reads. “In addition, our capacity to quarantine those who become sick or those who may have been exposed is extremely limited. The more students who leave campus, the more we can decrease the potential health risk to the broader community. “
Stevens is working with students to help those who can not return home for a variety of reasons. The university is considering each request to remain on campus on a case by case basis.
Students who must remain in Stevens housing during this time should request permission from the Office of Residential and Dining Services (RDS) by clicking here. Students can email email@example.com with questions.
Stevens students are asked to check the Stevens homepage regularly for updates.
Library programs canceled
The Hoboken Public Library facilities including the Main Library at 500 Park Ave, the Grand Street Branch, and the Learning Center at the Hoboken Housing Authority will be closed starting Monday, March 16, with a planned reopening of Monday, March 30.
“We apologize for the inconvenience, but this action is necessary to protect the health of our customers and staff during this volatile time,” said Director Lina Podles.
Loan periods will be adjusted to compensate for the closure and all items currently checked out to Hoboken Library cardholders will have their loans extended to Thursday, April 2.
Go to HobokenLibrary.org for the latest library information and to access to vibrant and robust online downloading and streaming services.
Go to HobokenLibrary.org/coronavirus/ for practical information about the Coronavirus.
The 19th Annual Tribeca Film Festival was scheduled to make it’s Hoboken debut this April, but according to a statement from co-founder and CEO of Tribeca Enterprises Jane Rosenthal, the festival will be postponed.
“We founded the Tribeca Film Festival as a way to heal our community after the devastation of the 9/11 attacks in 2001,” said Rosenthal. “We were determined to overcome our fear and anxiety by joining together. It is in our DNA to march forward while caring about our community.”
Rosenthal said the “difficult decision” to postpone was based on the announcement by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that events of 500 people or more are banned.
“We are committed to ensuring the health and safety of the public while also supporting our friends, filmmakers and storytellers who look to Tribeca as a platform to showcase their work to audiences. We will be back to you shortly with our plans,” she said.
“Check www.tribecafilm.com for the latest updates, ticket refund information and details about how we are moving forward.”
Little City Books was scheduled to host its 2nd Annual Hoboken Literary Weekend from April 3 to April 5 but according to co-owner Kate Jacobs, the weekend has been rescheduled for the fall. It was to feature several award-winning authors, artists, performers, and journalists at Little City Books as well as at partner venues throughout Hoboken.
The Hoboken Community Center announced it would be rescheduling it’s annual benefit “A Taste of Hoboken” which was to take place on March 18 at Stevens Institute of Technology Howe Center.
“The HCC is working to reschedule the event for later in 2020, and an announcement with the new date will be made shortly,” states their event page. “Guests are encouraged to keep their tickets for the rescheduled event, but those unable to attend on the new date may request a refund via the ticket website.”
The CDC recommends ways to limit the risk of contracting and spreading the virus.
Recommendations include frequent handwashing with soap and water or use of hand sanitizer with a minimum of 60 percent alcohol; covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing; avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth; avoiding close contact with people who are sick; and if you are sick, staying home from work or school.
The City of Hoboken, Office of Emergency Management, and the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) have opened up a COVID-19 hotline for Hoboken residents at 201-420-5620.
CERT members will be available to answer general questions pertaining to Hoboken’s COVID-19 response and serve as a resource with additional information for residents.
It will not be utilized for professional medical advice.
The COVID-19 hotline is open from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. through at least March 20.
A separate hotline for Hoboken seniors requesting assistance, or anyone in contact with a senior in need, has also been set up at 201-420-5625.
It is operational from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. until at least March 20.
Volunteers may be needed during the week to assist with various tasks related to the city’s COVID-19 response.
If you are interested in volunteering, please call the COVID-19 hotline at 201-420-5620 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 8 p.m.
The Hoboken Health Department will continue to operate, but the city says it should only be contacted by medical professionals.
Those that believe they were exposed to COVID-19 and want to be tested should contact their primary care physician first. Then they may also call the Hoboken Health Department at 201-420-2000 ext. 5211.
For updates on this and other stories check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.