Jersey City will start an “aggressive “ public awareness campaign to encouraging mask wearing because the city’s new COVID-19 cases have more than doubled compared to last month.
According to the city’s data, the seven day average of new COVID-19 cases has tripled, from seven on Sept. 28, to 23 on Oct. 28.
The city’s data highlights the upward trend of new cases as New Jersey braces for the second wave of COVID-19.
In Jersey City, cases more than doubled from September, which had a total of 200 new COVID-19 cases. October is at 512 new cases, not yet near the 4,124 cases reported in April during the peak in the city.
According to Mayor Steven Fulop, one campaign strategy will be the new #maskupjc campaign launching in the next few weeks, in which the city will mail masks to all households.
“I encourage you to not only wear them but use the hashtag in photos you post on social media showing us how you are all continuing to play your part,” Fulop said. “We must all help to keep each other safe, as we’ve done for months now. We will continue to push awareness. We have truly put in the work here in Jersey City to keep our local infection rate low to date.”
That work has been recognized by the Kresge Foundation, which awarded the city $295,263.
The city announced it will use the funds to “address health inequities, further health education, and increase access to mental health and violence prevention services. The training component will help develop and certify professional staff to address behavioral health issues and integrate best practices on violence prevention into department programs and services.”
Jersey City saw a 300 percent increase in demand for Meals on Wheels throughout the pandemic, and to help close food access gaps the city enlisted local transportation services to help deliver the meals.
During the height of the pandemic, the city’s Journal Square public showers were reopened to help the homeless maintain sanitation and hygiene, a key factor in curbing the spread of the virus, according to the city.
The location has provided support and supplies, including free flu shots and rapid response COVID-19 testing, in addition to clothing, food, and client assessments.
“We understand that the pandemic has affected our residents in a multitude of ways, and we’ve been expanding our resources where we can to help identify all those needs,” Fulop said. “With this grant, we will continue to address health disparities and ensure we continue to meet the emerging needs related to COVID-19.”
The city is once again expanding support services for at-risk homeless residents who are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
Jersey City is launching two new Health Buses to expand outreach efforts.
The buses include two full shower and bathroom units, two washing machines, a medical consult room, and free wireless Internet access.
The buses will be deployed along a regularly scheduled route and address acute spikes in homeless or emergency management scenarios, according to the city.
The Health Buses are being retrofitted with mobile sanitation and hygiene units, benefitting from a $50,000 grant from Reckitt-Benckiser. They will provide access points for health services, including sanitary needs, health screenings, testing, education, and counseling.
“The buses will be multi-function, designed specifically with the homeless community in mind,” said Health and Humane Services Director Stacey Flanagan. “We will now be able to deploy multiple health services simultaneously throughout the city to boost clientele and encourage more people to utilize the critical health services we offer. Since homes are the answer to homelessness, the Health Buses will also coordinate with homeless and housing agencies to help people move in the direction of readiness for housing.”
The city has extended operating hours of the Journal Square public showers to seven days a week Monday through Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on weekends from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.
“We’re mobilizing our efforts to make sure everyone has access to critical health services, especially our neediest residents,” Fulop said.
No new restrictions
Neighboring cities are considering restrictions on businesses to help curtail the spread of the virus. In Hoboken, the mayor limited hours for businesses by executive order on Oct. 29. Mayor Fulop has said he will not be doing the same as of “right now.”
“Our extensive Contact Tracing efforts for Jersey City show our current uptick isn’t related to businesses, but more to family and friends hosting in-home gatherings,” Fulop said.
In March, Jersey City was among the first in the country and first in the state to put restrictions and curfews in place.
“When we did it in March, there was a lot less information available about the virus, how it is transmitted, risks, treatments, etc., so we acted quickly,” Fulop said. “We have more information today, and I don’t see how a curfew, because of a spike, will help in the current situation.
“It isn’t as if you can only get COVID at night. You can get it at a shopping center, supermarket, or restaurant for lunch just as easily.”
He said the city will stick to a regional approach, enforce the state’s 25 percent capacity guidelines, contact trace, closely monitor hospitalizations, and push more public awareness.
“We’re going to keep public health as the first priority, and also balance mental health and the local economy as our second and third priorities,” he said.