Newark asks essential businesses to close, urges weekly shutdown to fight coronavirus

Posted Apr 10, 2020

Newark’s mayor is asking some essential businesses to close once a week to keep more people home as the rate of coronavirus cases rises in the state’s most populated city.

On Mondays, Mayor Ras Baraka hopes to effectively shut the entire city down in an effort he called “Be still Mondays.” He is asking essential businesses like grocery stores to voluntarily close once a week until May 17, a city spokesman confirmed.

The initiative is just an ask from the mayor and there is no local executive order. The voluntary closures would go beyond Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive orders, which only allow residents to go out for essential purposes or necessary work.

“If you’re not essential, if you’re not a cop, a fireman or working in a hospital, we want you to stay home,” Baraka said in a virtual town hall on Facebook Thursday evening. “We want all the stores to close, we want everything to close.”

Baraka said the city is sending out letters to essential businesses that still remain open to ask them to participate in Be Still Mondays.

There were 2,341 cases of COVID-19 and 106 deaths in Newark as of Friday evening, according to the city’s health department. Essex County, meanwhile, has the second-highest rate of coronavirus cases in the state, with only Bergen County having more.

Baraka warned that residents in black and brown communities like Newark are at an increased risk of catching the virus since people in cities live closer together. And, African Americans are more likely to suffer adverse effects from COVID-19 if they contract it since they have higher rates of underlying conditions like diabetes.

"We're contracting the illness quicker than other people and dying faster,” said Baraka. “We live on top of each other. If we continue business as usual, those numbers will continue to grow."

State officials have started releasing statistics about the impact of the coronavirus by race. Of all coronavirus deaths in New Jersey, 64% were white (including 17% Latino), 20% were black, 6% Asian and less than 1% Pacific Islanders.

Newark police on Friday distributed free masks to residents from their cars for protection against the virus.

The mayor suggested residents do yoga, spend time with their families or practice meditation instead of going out on Mondays. The city already initiated a day of virtual prayer and fasting every Tuesday, where residents could participate in a conference call to pray together.

Experts say staying at home is necessary to flatten the curve of the virus, or lower the rate of infection within a short period of time. Flattening the curve would reduce the strain on hospitals.

The city’s police have been enforcing the governor’s statewide orders. Newark police have already handed out hundreds of summonses to residents and businesses violating the statewide mandates.

Mayors from Newark, Irvington, East Orange and Orange also had police patrolling their borders to make sure residents weren’t violating the governor’s executive orders. The four cities also mandated that senior citizen buildings should be wiped down daily, or citations would be handed out.

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