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Newark Reversing Course Following Serious Spike In COVID Cases; Mayor Imposes Curfew On Nonessential Businesses

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) - New Jersey's largest city is reversing course after seeing a serious spike in COVID cases.

Newark is imposing a curfew for nonessential business and closing recreational facilities, among other things, starting tomorrow, CBS2's Lisa Rozner reported Monday.

Even though Newark's population accounts for a third of Essex County, Mayor Ras Baraka tweeted that the number of COVID cases there is more than every other city in Essex County combined.

Newark's East Ward has the highest positivity rate: More than 25%. The mayor has canceled all sports activities and open park practices there.

Baraka said the neighborhood is largely contributing to the citywide positivity rate of 11% over a three day rolling average - more than double the state's.

"Large gatherings are still happening... and restaurants and indoor places have to be strict with the numbers that they're allowing [to come in]," Baraka said.

The mayor announced that starting Tuesday:

  • All stores must close by 8 p.m., except supermarkets, pharmacies and gas stations
  • Restaurants and bars must close indoor service by 8 p.m., outdoor service by 11 p.m.
  • Barbershops, beauty parlors, and nail salons must go appointment only; no waiting inside
  • Recreation centers closed, except for school-related programs for essential employees

Other measures Newark is taking include requiring restaurants to take temperatures of all patrons coming inside and ask them if they have been in touch with anyone with COVID-19, as well as mandating all gyms clean and sanitize for the first 30 minutes of each hour. During that time, people can stay inside or return after the cleaning. Everyone must wear masks.

"It's tedious, but if it's something we need to do, we'll do it," said Bill Oliveira, owner of Chateau of Spain Restaurant.

Oliveira has had to layoff almost half of the restaurant staff to operate at 25% capacity inside. He was hoping to expand to 50% as the weather got colder.

"It's hard to keep heat in these tents, so it is upsetting," Oliveira said.

The state will assist with contact tracing and provide rapid tests.

The city will then reassess the situation after Nov. 10 to determine the next steps.

Watch Lisa Rozner's Report:

Jose Olaya, a Newark resident, is concerned about the coronavirus. He just recently started going back out in public.

Olaya went out Monday night to buy clothes before the second wave lockdown started.

"We're taking it real serious. I've lost family to COVID," Olaya told CBS2's Jessica Layton.

"If it's for our safety, I guess, yeah... but, a lot of people are going to have no jobs again. People are gonna struggle a little bit, again," he said.

On Monday, CBS2 saw long lines outside a testing center on Broad Street.

Dr. Shereef Elnahal, president and CEO of University Hospital Newark says the second wave has arrived.

"The mayor is right to sound the alarm. We're now almost at 20 hospitalizations, which is a sharp increase just from last week. We have a community clinic positivity rate approaching 6%, past our 5% threshold for beginning our surge plan," Dr. Elnahal said.


Latest numbers from Sunday, Oct. 18, show Newark is reporting a test positivity rate of around 11%, using a three-day rolling average. That's more than double New Jersey's test positivity rate of a little more than 5%. It's also the highest number of people infected in the city since May.

"We're concerned that an increasing number of indoor gathering and large gatherings in general at people's homes are contributing to this," Dr. Elnahal said.

When asked, Gov. Phil Murphy would not say how many cases it would take to send the entire Garden State into another lockdown, but he did hint that other hotspot communities may need to take a cue from Newark.

MORE: Statewide Restrictions In New Jersey Could Follow Newark's Curfew As COVID Cases Spike

"If we can't get a hold of this thing, that's probably something that, as a consideration, is going to have to become more meaningful," Murphy said.

The governor discussed the state's vaccination plan Monday, saying he knows there's a lot of public skepticism. Once a vaccine is approved, Murphy hopes compliance will be high.

"When we meet these aims, we will meet our initial goal of vaccinating 70% of the state's eligible adult population," Murphy said.

New Jersey is also raising concerns about contact tracing - saying people still are not cooperating when they get a call. That can interfere with health officials having an accurate number of people who are infected.

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