It came in on a ship. It attracted a tribe of journalists with cameras and microphones. It was a sign of things to come. Reported cases of the Coronavirus came aboard the Anthem of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean cruise vessel, on February 7, 2020. Twenty-seven of the passengers had been in China where the current Coronavirus crisis had started in 2019. Four of them were transported to University Hospital in Newark. I issued my first statement on the crisis, and we posted a Coronavirus fact sheet on the City website.
February 7, 2020 was the official start of the way we live now. As the Coronavirus spread in our area, we knew we had to plan and monitor Bayonne’s response to the pandemic in-the-making. On February 28, 2020, we held the first of dozens of Coronavirus meetings for City officials and representatives of other agencies and healthcare organizations. Those meetings continue.
On March 12, 2020, I declared a State of Emergency to enable us to deal with the virus. The 2020 Bayonne St. Patrick’s Parade was cancelled out of concern for the health of the thousands of people who would have come to the festivities. The parade could have become a super-spreader event, one of the many new terms we have learned in the past twelve months.
Traditionally, City Hall is a place where hundreds of people have come each week to pay bills, obtain permits and other documents, attend meetings, and offer their views. Last March, for health reasons, we decided to reduce the number of people coming to City Hall, because we could not risk having crowds in the hallways waiting for services. Ever since then, some municipal employees have been working from home. Some services have been suspended, while other are carried out on line, by phone, or via drop boxes at the front of City Hall. Last year, the Bayonne Board of Education switched from in-person teaching to online learning.
By the time 2020 ended, at least 3,584 Bayonne residents had tested positive for the Coronavirus, and at least 92 of our residents died from Coronavirus-related causes. We mourn those who have passed and pray for their survivors.
Vaccinations have begun in Bayonne. They will pick up speed as supplies increase in the months ahead. Please keep wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, and washing your hands frequently. If we all take these appropriate steps, we can get through this crisis together.