Two news events this week point to Mayor Ras J. Baraka’s plans to re-open the City in a slow, controlled march to normalcy, or at least something that resembles normal until a COVID-19 vaccine or cure is developed.
On Monday, in conjunction with Gov. Phil Murphy’s order to allow some non-essential businesses to re-open, Mayor Barak signed an executive order of his own to allow curbside pick-up of pre-ordered goods, provided store employees and customers wear masks and maintain proper social distance.
On Thursday, the Mayor Baraka presented the first phase of a plan that will commence June 1, to poise the City to gradually re-open in carefully constructed and safe stages.
“Phase One is about us getting prepared to open. We’re advancing, but it also gives us room to retreat if the numbers go back up,” Mayor Baraka said. “Our top priority is the health and safety of our residents.”
The Mayor’s decision on “Phase One” was based on data that shows a continued decline in COVID-19 cases and from the recommendations of the “Newark Reopening and Recovery Strikeforce,” a group of civic and business leaders called on by the city, co-chaired by Chief of Staff Amiri Baraka, Jr. and Newark Alliance CEO Aisha Glover.
The data shows that while Newark has increased testing 100 percent, the percentage of people who have tested positive has dropped dramatically, as well as reported cases and deaths, according to City Director of Engineering Phil Scott, who led the data collecting effort.
“We are going to reopen gradually and responsibly as we continue to assess the data and avoid the potential for exponential spread of COVID-19.” Mayor Baraka said. “The restrictions we have put in place up to this point have been working. We don’t want to go backwards and lose the gains we’ve worked so hard to obtain.”
As part of Phase One, the City will institute a color-coded system to “give people information they need to have to make informed choices about the risks,” Mayor Baraka said.
Businesses, restaurants, parks and other public places will display color-coded signage, with red being the highest risk area, yellow more moderate, and green the lowest risk area.
The Mayor gave the example of basketball courts probably being coded red because of the crowds and the nature of the game which does not favor social distancing.
“We want people to know if you go to these places, you run a high risk of getting sick,” he said.
Other Phase One components include:
• Recreation centers, parks and playgrounds will remain closed; block parties and special events will remain on hold. All faith-based services will continue to be held via teleconference or virtually.
• Information centers will be established in each ward and 4311 will be expanded to include a dedicated COVID-19 information hotline. Additionally, a technology task force will be created to develop a sustainable citywide strategy for universal access to Wi-Fi and the hardware necessary for remote learning.
• An isolation and quarantine plan will be developed for those who cannot create one themselves. Guidance will be provided around emotional hurdles and fears related to medical mistrust.
• Letters will be sent to all businesses requesting plans to ensure the safety of their employees and the general public. City licensing, approvals and permitting processes will be adjusted to streamline what can be expedited and waived.
Also, yesterday, the Mayor adjusted requirements for curbside pick-up of pre-ordered goods in asking businesses to submit their safety plans to the City.
“We’re here to give these businesses guidance on how to safely re-open,” Mayor Baraka said. “These rules are important to keep everybody safe, their customers and their employees.”
The rules of the order are as follows:
• All customers, whether in cars or on foot, must wear masks when entering businesses to make purchases or curbside pickups.
• Retail businesses shall limit in-store operations to those employees who are responsible for the operations required for curbside pickup.
• Retail businesses shall handle customer transactions in advance online or by phone, email, fax, or other means to avoid person-to-person contact. Retail business shall have visible signs with comprehensive instructions outside the establishment for customers to follow concerning curbside pickups.
• All retail businesses must have security or employees designated to enforce social distancing; the Newark police and code enforcement employees will be making random inspections for compliance.
• All sales, purchases, transactions shall be by the preferred means of credit or debit cards or by mobile payment service, though cash will still be accepted.
• Customers shall notify the retailer by text message, email, or phone once they arrive at the business, or make best efforts to schedule their arrival time in advance. The customer shall be asked to remain in their vehicle, if arriving by car, until store staff delivers the purchase to their car.
• Retail businesses shall erect parking signs to direct customers to the curb side pickup area to avoid traffic disruption.
• If there is no availability of parking in front of retail establishments, businesses shall implement procedures with social distancing to allow for customers to line up outside establishment, using 6 feet markings on the sidewalk/pavement, or the use of cones between patrons. It shall require all customers picking up at curb side to wear masks and gloves.
• Retail businesses shall take the following minimum precautions: employees working for retail businesses must wear the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including masks and gloves, when delivering a customer’s items curbside; the number of people in a retail business shall be limited to 25 percent of the normal occupancy; directional markers on the floors and in the aisles should be placed so people are only moving in one direction.
• Businesses must also provide employees break time for repeated handwashing throughout the workday and provide sanitizing materials, such as hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes, to staff, and frequent sanitizing all high-touch areas. Businesses must provide, at their expense, such face coverings and gloves for their employees.
The order also states all non-essential retail businesses must close by 8:00 p.m. daily and any retailers found to be in violation of any of the above, face warnings or summonses or be closed until further notice.
- Newark News