Hoboken has expanded COVID-19 testing and contact tracing as the mile-square city continues to combat the second wave of the Coronavirus.
Hoboken has had 1,264 confirmed cases since March; 1,047 resident recoveries; and 31 deaths, according to a Nov. 20 update from Mayor Ravi Bhalla.
As of Nov. 18, Hoboken University Medical Center reported 14 COVID-19-related patients, six of whom are Hoboken residents.
This comes as the Health Department reported the highest one-day total of new cases on Thursday, Nov. 19; 32, since the start of the pandemic.
“It’s critical that we do everything we can to remain vigilant these next few months, as cases are increasing to record highs,” Bhalla said. “As always, please continue to take the precautions science has proven will help keep us safe: avoid indoor gatherings beyond household members, use a face mask whenever outside the household, social distance, and stay outside when possible.”
Contact tracing expanded
According to the health department, contact tracing has shown several trends where residents have been exposed to the virus, including workplace exposure, infections related to school and daycare staff, infections with children through parents or other household members, infections with children through recreation or extracurricular activities, healthcare workers exposed at work, small social gatherings of family and friends, and travel to high-risk areas.
According to the city, the majority of businesses are taking the necessary health precautions to keep their employees and customers safe. Despite these efforts, the Health Department has reported an uptick in employees of local businesses, including bars and restaurants, testing positive.
To improve contact tracing, the city’s Office of Emergency Management signed a new directive that requires bars, restaurants, fitness and health clubs, salons, gyms, and wellness establishments to record contact information for customers, along with the time of arrival.
The new requirement is not required for take-out or delivery services, or for grocery stores, bodegas, retail stores, dry cleaners, or any situation where a customer is not in prolonged contact with other customers or employees.
If an employee who has had contact with customers tests positive, the business will provide the contact information for impacted customers to the Health Department.
The health department will then contact customers, give them the appropriate health guidance, and alert them to potential exposure.
According to the city, information collected by businesses will be used only for COVID-19 contact tracing through the Health Department and can be discarded by the business after 30 days.
“This order is not meant to place an unnecessary burden on our small businesses, but rather to assist them in keeping customers safe in the event of a positive case, prevent outbreaks, and to provide health guidance to customers,” Bhalla said. “This is a process that has been successfully implemented in places such as New York City and Michigan, and I’m confident this step will provide a net benefit to our businesses and provide an extra level of safety to customers.”
According to the mayor, several businesses already collect this information.
The directive also instructs businesses to notify the Health Department of employees who test positive.
Currently, when an employee of a local business who is a resident tests positive, the local health department is notified once the test results are submitted by the respective laboratory, and then contact tracing can occur. But if the employee is not a Hoboken resident, the health department is often not notified, and contact tracing may be delayed or simply not occur.
Businesses can notify the health department by emailing email@example.com Information will be viewed only by Hoboken health officers or the Health Director.
The directive goes into effect on Friday, Nov. 20.
For a sample sign-in sheet for businesses go to https://bit.ly/2Kdfy49.
For a copy of the OEM directive go to https://bit.ly/3lLnbgc.
Fines for violators
Gov. Phil Murphy has lowered the limit for indoor gatherings to 10 people.
The ordinance passed by the City Council establishing fines of up to $1,000 for indoor gatherings of more than 25 people that also violates other city ordinances will now apply to any indoor gatherings of more than 10 people.
While Bhalla discouraged indoor gatherings beyond household members, he said the ordinance is not meant to target peaceful gatherings but address and prevent “unruly house parties that are causing a disturbance, causing a major health risk, and endangering our community.”
Over the weekend of Nov. 13, the Police Department gave out six violations for “disorderly house” that included up to a $1,000 fine per the new ordinance.
“The city will recommend to the municipal prosecutor that the maximum fine be given in these situations given the current public health crisis,” Bhalla said.
According to Bhalla, the city has had a record number of residents requesting COVID-19 testing so, the city is expanding its testing.
Riverside Medical Group, which offers testing for Hoboken residents only under the 14th Street Viaduct, will extend testing until 4 p.m. on Saturdays.
Appointments must be scheduled at http://www.hobokennj.gov/riverside unless residents are preexisting patients in which case they should call their Riverside primary care office to schedule an appointment.
Prompt MD, which tests residents and business employees at 605 Jackson St., also extended testing with appointments available four or five days a week.
Appointments must be booked at http://www.hobokennj.gov/promptmd.
Hoboken is newly partnering with Medicine Man Pharmacy at 511 Washington St. to provide approximately 125 rapid tests for Hoboken residents on Sunday at 605 Jackson Street between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.
They offer the rapid BD Veritor Plus Antigen test, with results emailed within three to six hours of testing.
To sign-up for testing, visit http://www.hobokennj.gov/medicineman. Appointments will become available for an additional 125 rapid tests on Wednesday, November 25 between 9 a.m. and 1 pm, in the coming days.
On Tuesday, Nov. 24, over 275 COVID-19 tests will be offered through the city’s partnership with Ivee at the Multi-Service Center at 124 Grand St. for residents between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Ivee offers PCR testing, and results will be emailed within 24-48 hours. To sign up, visit http://www.hobokennj.gov/ivee.
The city will pay for testing for uninsured residents and Hoboken business employees at the Prompt MD site.
The health department recommends testing at least five to seven days after potential COVID-19 exposure, to avoid inaccurate results.
For additional testing options, visit the state of New Jersey’s COVID-19 database of testing sites at https://covid19.nj.gov/pages/testing#test-sites.