According to Mayor Steven Fulop, Jersey City is seeing an uptick in positive COVID-19 cases post-Thanksgiving.
“While we ultimately hoped this would not happen, we have been prepared for this scenario,” Fulop said.
According to the Dec. 20 numbers, 160 new cases were reported on Dec. 20, and the city’s seven weekly average is 1,180 new cases per day. So far, December has seen a total of 2,634 new cases, ranking the second-highest month since the city’s first surge in April with 4,125 cases reported.
Of the 12,959 cases since the start of the pandemic, the majority of those infected have been under the age of 50 and male.
Of the city’s 561 resident deaths the average age of the deceased is 71, with the majority of fatalities over 61.
According to the city’s data, of the deaths, the majority have been male, and roughly 30 percent have been white followed by “unknown ” at roughly 28 percent, and Black or African American at roughly 27 percent.
“It is important that we act responsibly to further minimize the spread with the holidays upon us,” Fulop said. “The actions that we take now will help us reduce the impact … Sadly, the uptick in cases ultimately means less access to hospital care and is followed by an increase in the number of deaths.”
As of Dec. 17, Jersey City Medical Center had 49 patients being treated for COVID-19, far from its April 12 peak of 208.
As of Dec. 19, Christ Hospital had 29 patients being treated for COVID-19 far from its peak on April 9 of 142.
Vaccines on the way
On Dec. 21, Jersey City resident and Security Supervisor at Jersey City Medical Center Thomas Melendez was the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the hospital. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Loftus administered the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Fulop announced last week that the city is looking to create its own vaccination sites for residents to receive the vaccine as the city did with testing sites in March.
The city plans to open six sites, in various locations.
Fulop said the city will “front the money” and later seek reimbursements.
“It is our hope that we will be able to begin the first round of distribution next month to health care professionals and first responders,” Fulop said.
According to Fulop, the state hopes to have 70 percent of Jersey City vaccinated in six months’ time.
“While we know this is an ambitious goal, we have asked for the state to provide additional education surrounding all parts of the vaccine,” he said. “With this education, we also hope that the state will provide outreach in all languages, allocating the budget and real resources to the city, so that all residents have access and an understanding. We must increase public awareness, tools, and information. It’s an important conversation to have if it’s going to be a vaccine widely accepted when it becomes available.”
Fulop said residents are struggling financially, noting that since the pandemic began, food insecurity has continued to grow.
“The size of the problem is heartbreaking, and the damage is real,” Fulop said. “Jersey City was able to help distribute 1,000 boxes of free food to our residents. We know this isn’t enough, and we need Washington to provide an even bigger program now.”
According to the city, the city’s Meals on Wheels program has grown 300 percent since the pandemic hit.
As part of the 2020 State of the City Address, Fulop announced a local rent and utilities relief program that is expected to launch early next month.
“We know people are struggling, and we will do the best we can at the local level with help,” said Fulop. “I think we will be able to help several thousand families in Jersey City, but ultimately we will need another robust relief bill from Washington as that is where the best chance of meaningful help can come from.”
Fulop said this relief from Washington should also include more money for teachers as well as stipends for high school students, noting that attendance in jersey city schools has dropped, and the pandemic is creating an educational gap.
“It is my hope that Washington pay teachers significantly extra for teaching next summer, pay high school students a stipend to attend summer school so they won’t need to pursue summer jobs and can focus on school, subsidize summer enrichment camps for K-8 children and parents, and provide necessary funding to upgrade our schools, systems and subsidize ACT/SAT prep courses,” said Fulop. “We are seeing the enormous impact of the pandemic on our schools. Absent a targeted plan with real money and a real program that aligns all interests, the damage won’t be reversed.”