Hoboken ends COVID-19 state of emergency

Hoboken is ending it's COVID-19 state of emergency almost two years since it began. Photo by Mark Koosau.

The city of Hoboken is ending its COVID-19 state of emergency, declared two years ago at the beginning of the pandemic, citing recent trends in the city and the greater region for lifting it.

“After two long, hard years, we are finally at a time where it is no longer necessary to remain under a State of Emergency,” said Mayor Ravi Bhalla in a statement. “This is a credit to everyone who has chosen to get vaccinated and boosted, which has helped get us through the hard times of the past year.”

The state of emergency was first declared on March 12, 2020, one day after the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic. It allowed the city and the Office of Emergency Management to take proactive action to protect residents during the early days of the pandemic.

The city at the time took measures such as cancelling all “non-essential” city-run events and meetings, implementing a curfew, and ordering restaurants and bars to do takeout and delivery service only.

In 2021, the city took other measures into handling COVID, including a vaccine requirement for city employees, and a brief indoor mask mandate that lasted from Dec. 27, 2021 to Feb. 9 during an omicron fueled wave of cases.

In lifting the emergency, the city cited a decreased rate of COVID-19 cases in the city and the greater region. As of Feb. 18, Hoboken had a seven-day average of about 32 cases, and as of March 4, greater Hudson County had a seven-day average of 90 cases.

Hoboken in total has had 9,737 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 63 deaths since the pandemic began. The city currently has 73 percent of the population fully vaccinated.

Bhalla signaled that they’re moving to an endemic response to COVID, “utilizing the tools we know will protect our residents.”

The lifting comes on the same day that New Jersey ended it’s public health emergency, with Gov. Phil Murphy saying that they’re moving from a pandemic to an endemic response. It also comes on the same day that the state is lifting it’s school mask mandate, with the Hoboken school district following suit.

City Council meetings to return in-person

City Council meetings will be returning in-person starting in April, having been virtual since the pandemic began in March of 2020.

Council President Michael Russo said that it was important for the council to return to City Hall again, and that they want to give everyone an advance notice of returning due to difficulties with getting the technology for hybrid meetings.

“We are working very hard to get a hybrid option available, so that those that were still concerned about attending in person meetings could participate via Zoom,” he said. “That has been more challenging than than originally anticipated, because of the technology and the backlog of it.”

The council had planned on doing hybrid meetings beginning this year, but the plans were scrapped due to the surge in COVID cases at the time.

Russo said that he isn’t sure when they could have hybrid meetings or if by the time they get the tech if it will be necessary. But he said that he has “no problem” with a hybrid option “if that does become available, and the city is willing to invest in that technology and change some of our equipment.”

“Right now it looks like the in-person live option will be the only option in our April meetings,” he said. The next two meetings this month on March 9 and 23 will remain virtual.

Hoboken spokesperson Marilyn Baer said that City Hall will no longer require visitors to take temperature checks or wear a mask. “City Hall continues to remain open to all members of the public with appointments preferred,” she said. “The city has made a substantial investment to our website to make city services more accessible online.”

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mark Koosau can be reached at mkoosau@hudsonreporter.com or his Twitter @snivyTsutarja.