Newark mayor weighs mandated curfew in city of 280K residents

Posted Mar 17, 2020

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka will make a decision by Wednesday if there should be an 8 p.m. curfew for residents and certain businesses to combat the spread of coronavirus.

“By tomorrow evening though, we will make a decision about whether we go from strongly encouraging to making it mandatory that everybody has to stop traveling after 8 p.m.,” Baraka said Tuesday in a virtual town hall on Facebook.

The 8 p.m. curfew would not force supermarkets, pharmacies and gas stations to close, Baraka said.

The city is home to about 280,000 residents.

The mayor’s announcement comes on the heels of the governor ordering a number of closures in the state, including schools, malls, and amusement parks. The governor has said non-essential retail, recreation and entertainment businesses may remain open as long as they close between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. have less than 50 people inside during the day.

Murphy has only strongly suggested that New Jerseyans do not travel after 8 p.m., but has not mandated it. However, Baraka said he was weighing whether to take Murphy’s recommendations one step further in the boundaries of Newark, the most populated city in the state.

Newark has 11 of Essex County’s 32 cases of coronavirus. There are at least 267 coronavirus cases in New Jersey and only Bergen County has more cases than Essex County, according to the state health department.

Three New Jersey residents have died after being diagnosed with coronavirus. The latest was a 90-year-old from Saddle Brook.

Teaneck’s mayor, which had the most cases of COVID-19 in Bergen County, has recommended that all residents there self-quarantine. Hoboken, which has five cases, imposed a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. earlier this week.

Murphy said in a Tuesday afternoon press conference that he wanted any directives to be consistent with his statewide guidelines and mandates. It was not immediately clear if city officials have coordinated with the state on the 8 p.m. curfew.

“We ask county and local officials to coordinate closely with us, prior to making any local directive,” Murphy previously said. “Again, there’s no doubting everybody’s hearts in the right place, but we have to do things in a coordinated fashion. At the end of the day, where necessary, we will override local or county actions to make sure we are consistent in our approach.”

Baraka said Newark police will probably inform residents that they should not be on the street if they see anyone after curfew, but not make any arrests.

“Obviously, if you’re coming home from work that obviously is something you cannot control," Baraka said. “The police will not be out there looking to arrest people who have violated curfew. What they’re looking to do is make sure there are less people on the street as possible.”

Newark Health and Community Wellness Director Mark Wade said the city has been in contact with shelters and instructed them to be on the lookout for any homeless residents who may be exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus so they can possibly be tested.

A woman who tested positive for coronavirus gave a fake name and Newark address to doctors at an East Orange hospital but was later found. Wade, during the virtual town hall, implored any undocumented immigrants to get tested if they needed.

“Do not be afraid or hesitate to come in,” said Wade, who reiterated that Newark is a sanctuary city. “And please, if you contact us, give us your accurate information.”

President Donald Trump has expressed support for a bill that passed the U.S. House which would provide free testing for the virus.

Baraka and city officials issued other measures in Newark on Tuesday, which include the following:

  • City Hall will be staffed at minimal levels and open to residents by appointment only for an indefinite period. To make an appointment, please call the usual numbers of the departments whose services are being sought or the Non-Emergency Call Center at 973-733-4311.
  • Police, fire, sanitation, healthcare, WIC, homeless services, water, and lead service line replacement services will continue to function normally.
  • Senior residential buildings will not accept visitors.
  • Enforcement of parking violations that only pose public safety hazards, such as the blocking of fire hydrants or parking in crosswalks, will be in effect until Tuesday, March 31, 2020. All other parking violation enforcement is suspended until that time. Street cleaning will also be suspended for the same period.
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