STATEMENT FROM MAYOR BHALLA ON NEW SELF-ISOLATION POLICY IN HOBOKEN
Below is an open letter from Mayor Bhalla to Hoboken residents, read at a press conference this afternoon:
Over the past several days, the rest of the country has followed Hoboken’s lead in regulations and policies that promote social distancing, in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Hoboken currently has five positive COVID-19 cases, but due to the lack of testing, this number will increase substantially. Hoboken was the first City to introduce regulations on bars and restaurants over the weekend, but is most likely not enough. As the fourth most densely populated city in the entire country, a spread in our City’s close quarters could be deadly and literally result in the loss of life of our most vulnerable populations.
Now, why are we here today? The idea that there are “alternative facts” and that science is “fake news” is why we find ourselves, as a nation, in this trouble. Let me be clear: facts are facts and science is science, and it’s about time we listen to the science. So let’s do that, let’s talk about the science. This morning the Harvard Global Health Institute called for a nationwide shut down to slow the spread of COVID-19. The medical professionals all agree this is going to get worse before it gets better.
Yet, just last Saturday in Hoboken, bars were packed to the brim, people were out eating in close proximity at restaurants, and large clusters of people were in public parks as recent as yesterday. It’s time to dig deep, and ask ourselves the question – have we done everything within our power to limit this spread, through our own actions, if our region suffers the way Italy has suffered? And the answer, so far, is no.
That’s why, in Hoboken today, we’re issuing a new policy of self-isolation within our mile square. I’ve previously advised residents that if you’re sick, to stay home, call your doctor, and self-isolate. That is simply not enough. Whether you feel sick or not, all residents should immediately begin self-isolating at home. The policy, similar to the one enacted in San Francisco, requires people to stay home except for essential needs, the purchasing of food, care for a family member or friend, to get health care, or employment where remote work is not possible. It’s a fundamental change in the way we operate on a day-to-day basis.
I just got off the phone with Dr. Ashish Jha, Director of the Harvard Global Health Institute. He’s among the world’s leading experts, and it is the position of the Global Health Institute, that in order to effectively combat the spread of the coronavirus, we must change the way we think about this virus, and the way we live our daily lives. This will hopefully spur other municipalities and states to take similar actions, with more residents adopting self-isolation, which will save lives.
We have a responsibility to the most vulnerable among us, including our seniors, children, and those with a compromised immune system. We have a responsibility to the first responders and medical professionals. We have a responsibility to one another. We must take this seriously. We must do everything we can and we must do it now before we become like Italy or Spain where health care systems are collapsing and doctors have to make decisions about who will receive lifesaving treatment and who will not. Listen to me, Hoboken will get through this. We will all get through this, but we have to do the right thing and we have to do it now.
I know this is not easy. But, I shudder at the thought of looking back on what we could have done now, knowing that our region could become the next Italy, before it’s literally too late. We can’t afford to make this mistake. It would be the mistake of our generation to underestimate this pandemic, and what we do now in the next several weeks could have lasting consequences for generations to come.
Let me be clear – activities such as running, jogging, bike-riding, walking, and other similar types of exercise are permitted under the new self-isolation policy, but only if social distancing of at least six feet is observed. Restaurants, bars and establishments will be permitted to continue operating takeout and delivery service, only. All travel on public transportation or by vehicle is restricted for employment purposes only.
Restaurants are permitted through delivery and take-out service only, while grocery stores, supermarkets, bodegas, banks, restaurants with food, pharmacies, and coffee shops will remain open until 8:00 pm.
I’m also announcing with our Office of Emergency Management the closure of all non-essential businesses in Hoboken that includes retail stores, all nail salons, hair salons, massage parlors, and non-essential medical offices. I’m also limiting any gatherings of people to 5 people or less in public places, and encouraging all places of worship to suspend in-person services. This will take effect as of tomorrow at 9:00 am.
Again, these proactive measures are designed to keep Hoboken safe, and will at the end of the day, save lives.
Thank you again,
Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla