Jersey City prepares for coronavirus

Club curfew established, restaurants are take out only, and all city events cancelled

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Superintendent Franklin Walker said teachers are prepared to offer students at home instruction.
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Mayor Steven Fulop held a press conference Thursday on the city's preparations for the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Superintendent Franklin Walker said teachers are prepared to offer students at home instruction.
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Mayor Steven Fulop held a press conference Thursday on the city's preparations for the COVID-19 pandemic.

(UPDATE March 16)

Mayor Steven Flop announced Jersey City will be implementing additional restrictions as a preventative measure to COVID-19 beginning on Monday, March 16.
The restrictions, created by an executive order, include closing all bars and nightclubs that don’t serve food, closing all movie theaters and perforce centers, closing all gyms, fitness centers, state licensed cosmetology establishments, barber shops, day care centers, nail salons.
It also closes non urgent medical offices including dental, physical therapy clinics, and chiropractors.
The executive order also prohibits restaurants from providing dine in services and only offering take out, delivery, and drive-thru.
Fulop said these restrictions do not apply to grocery stores, cafeterias within nursing homes, or similar facilities.

This comes after an earlier executive order on March 12 in which Flop established a 10 p.m. curfew on all clubs.

The curfew for all establishments holding a liquor license is one of several precautions the city is taking as a preventative measure to reduce exposing the public to COVID-19.

“There is so much uncertainty around testing, who carries the virus, and how quickly it spreads so we want to be overly cautious until we have some answers,” said Mayor Fulop. “The logic here is simple: if the conversation federally and at the state level is around closing schools, or what we would classify as controlled environments, in order to limit the spread of the virus, wouldn’t logic lead us to make sure we are also thinking about large uncontrolled environments until we have more answers?”

At a press conference Thursday morning, Mayor Fulop said all establishments which can fit more than 25 people are being instructed to take attendance, including places of worship, restaurants and special event venues, so that the city will have access to a record of all individuals entering an establishment through a sign-in sheet for the purpose of notification of potential exposure, if necessary.

At the Jersey City Council meeting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 11, attendees were required to sign in at the front door by providing names, addresses, and phone numbers.

The city has established a hotline for anyone exhibiting symptoms or who has been exposed to the virus. Residents are urged to self-quarantine and then call the hotline at 201 547-5208.

For general information and updates, please visit www.jcnj.org/coronavirus.  Residents are also encouraged to sign up for the city’s SwiftReach reverse call alert system for advisories and updates.

Monitoring the situation 

“We’re thinking through all of these issues that most other municipalities aren’t faced with, such as our large uninsured population” said Director of Health and Human Services Stacey Flanagan. “Everyday circumstances are changing, so as we continue to monitor the situation, we are making sure that our residents are aware of the resources we’re providing on a city-level until we’re in the clear.”

So far, three residents in  Jersey City have tested positive for COVID-19.

Jersey City Health Officer Dr. Shatrughan Bastola said that approximately 40 to 50 people have entered self-quarantine as a precautionary measure.

“We want to err on the side of caution, we are in uncharted territory,” said Mayor Fulop.

So far, one person in Hudson County, from West New York, has tested positive. New York City had 62 cases as of Thursday.

“There are over 100 cases in New York City,” said Director of Public Safety James Shea. “People go back and forth from New York City to Jersey City all the time…we assume that somebody with this contagion must have passed through at one point or another. It would be illogical to assume anything else.”

City precautions 

The Executive Order further dictates that all regularly scheduled public meetings held by the city including the City Council, Planning and Zoning Boards, and other governing boards, are canceled until further notice, as are all city-sponsored events.

Under the executive order, all private events held on city property and all events requiring city permits are canceled, including events already granted a city permit.

As for further proactive measures the city might take, Fulop said on March 15, “There is no ‘playbook’ on this and I want to avoid getting to a point where each municipality is succumbing to peer pressure. Up till now we have been measured and reasonable in trying to promote social distancing with a basic rule. The test for us has been whether a place has a track record/business model of being an establishment that runs counter to social distancing. That’s basically it.”

He said movie theaters were instructed to close on Saturday, March 14, but as of now the mall remains open overall. Gyms were also asked to limit classes.

Alternate side of the street parking rules are suspended March 16 through March 20.

All-non-Criminal matters scheduled in the Jersey City Municipal Court, at 365 Summit Ave. between Monday, March 16 and March 20 are adjourned.

The JCMUA has ordered Suez to eliminate water shutoffs to any Jersey City residence for 30 days and will not be accepting any hand deliveries of permit applications, correspondence, invoices, bill payments, or proposals.

All city offices, buildings, and departments will still be open to the public during normal business hours, but there will be no walk-ins. Instead, residents must call ahead and schedule appointments.

Shea recounted an incident on Wednesday in which a man, who believed he had been infected, tried to enter City Hall.

“People get scared, and panic, so this person yesterday was afraid that they may have been exposed, so they put a mask and gloves on and came looking for help,” said Shea. “And again, we anticipated that, our officer at the door knew what to do, he never got into City Hall, and we obtained him help.”

The city is also taking steps to help protect senior residents. The Meals on Wheels program will distribute food to those who are self-quarantined and all senior events are temporarily canceled, but vital resources and services will remain available.

Flanagan also said as of Monday morning, no members of the city staff are permitted to travel outside of the state.

School closed 

On March 11,  teachers, and staff prepared for school closures which began March 16 district-wide due to an “abundance of caution” to the potential spread of the virus, according to Superintendent of Jersey City Public School District Franklin Walker.

Walker said they have created home instruction for the district’s 30,000 students through both online formats and take-home written paper packets for those students without internet access.

A March 12 announcement by the district said during the week school is closed district officials will review the risks and decide if schools will remain closed for an additional week.

“We will assess the available information at that time and notify everyone as soon as possible,” states the announcement.

The district will provide students “grab and go” food through satellite areas.

Families are instructed to check the district’s website for additional information at jcboe.org. 

Currently, there is no vaccine available for COVID-19, but the CDC recommends ways to limit the risk of contracting and spreading the virus.

Recommendations include frequent hand washing 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.

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.