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Newark begins overnight shutdown with new restrictions possible

coronavirus newark
Posted at 8:57 AM, Nov 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-20 10:47:27-05

NEWARK, N.J. — In an interview, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said "we are going to lock the city down" and residents should "shelter in place," before a press aide for Gov. Phil Murphy clarified that the mayor's comments were a request and not an order.

"From Wednesday before Thanksgiving to Dec. 4, we are going to lock the city down," Baraka initially said.

Friday, police were driving through the city's hardest hit ward, the Ironbound, blasting out a 9 p.m. curfew that was already enacted in the city and stands as the strictest COVID-19 rule in the state.

"Mayor Baraka is asking all Newark residents to stay at home and limit travel to essential activities," said Jerrel Harvey, a spokesman for the governor. "This advisory is entirely consistent with the [Murphy] administration’s position that New Jersey residents should be particularly vigilant as COVID-19 continues to spread."

Murphy has repeatedly stressed in recent days that any legal orders or enforceable restrictions issued by municipalities or counties must be consistent with the state.

Today, New Jersey reported 3,635 new cases of COVID-19.

But a Pfizer vaccine, which is reported to be 95% effective, may be just weeks away.

"Should it be approved, we would expect the first shipment to the state around Christmas time with more to follow," Murphy said Friday.

The first round of vaccines would go directly to healthcare workers. A vaccine from Moderna is expected to arrive shortly after. It has a similar efficacy rate, according to the company.

The state is anticipating 400,000 vaccinations to available by early January.

"Our goal is to vaccinate 70% of the adult population or 4.7 million New Jerseyans in 6 months," said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.

The state is also expecting new shipments of rapid testing, including the new Que test, which will go directly to state veterans' homes and is reported to be 99% accurate with a result in 20 minutes. Plus, 1.7 million more rapid tests will soon ship out from the federal government to county testing sites.

In Bergen County, rapid testing underway this week in Paramus was overbooked immediately and is already at capacity for next week, but expanded hours are coming.

The county will also start monitoring wastewater at the Bergen County sewer shed for evidence of COVID-19.

"Global and United States studies have shown this monitoring can provide an early indication up to two weeks of increases or decreases of COVID in an area," said Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco.

Tedesco also announced that Bergen will keep all county schools and buildings closed into January.

Murphy stated today that while he anticipates things will soon get worse, he does want to avoid shutting down businesses without new federal aid to keep them afloat.

"That's blood on our hands in a different respect," said the governor. "It's shameful they have not acted in Congress. Especially [Majority Leader Senator Mitch] McConnell and the Republican Senate to throw a lifeline to small businesses."

Editor's note: A previous version of this story included information about a 10-day lockdown that Mayor Ras Baraka announced on WBGO 88.3 FM radio Thursday night. The governor's office later called Baraka's comments a suggestion.

Correction: A previous version of this story misattributed a statement from Jerrel Harvey.