Impact of COVID-19 in Hoboken
The Hoboken Health Department is reporting the following, new COVID-19 cases in Hoboken:
October 27: 10
October 28: 7
October 29: 17
The 17 cases reported Thursday, an alarming increase, reflect the highest one-day total since the end of April. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 991 known, confirmed cases of COVID-19, along with 856 recoveries. Fatalities remain unchanged at 31. The Hoboken University Medical Center is reporting that there are currently 11 COVID-19 related hospitalizations, which includes two Hoboken residents.
The 17 new cases and two new hospitalizations should be a stark reminder to all of us that we are now in the midst of a second wave of the virus. We should assume that anyone we are in contact with could have COVID-19, avoid indoor gatherings beyond immediate household members, wear face masks and social distance at all practical times, and prioritize outdoor, as opposed to indoor activities as much as possible.
Contacting tracing and schools
Extensive contact tracing from our Health Department has indicated that some of the most recent cases have involved children that been exposed to COVID-19 at social gatherings and other situations, then went to school and subsequently testing positive, resulting in quarantine situations and remote learning situations.
Our Health Department has confirmed that our schools are taking every possible safety measure to keep our children safe, and that there is little evidence that the schools themselves are the reason for COVID-19 spread, as opposed to behavior outside the school. I thank our educators for going above and beyond to protect our students and providing as safe a learning environment as possible, as well as working with our health department to ensure safety protocols.
The results from contact tracing is a reminder to all parents to please take the necessary precautions to keep children safe from COVID-19 and avoiding risky situations such as social gatherings without face masks, as well as indoor gatherings.
New COVID-19 mobile application
Recently, Governor Murphy and the State of New Jersey launched a new mobile application, COVID Alert NJ, to let users know if they’ve potentially been exposed to COVID-19. The mobile app will alert users if they’ve been within six feet for at least 10 minutes of someone using the application who has tested positive for COVID-19. The app, which works with other similar apps in Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania, is completely anonymous and doesn’t collect personal data, and does not use GPS location data, and instead uses Bluetooth low energy technology to detect when another phone with the app is within six feet.
Here’s how it works:
- Download COVID Alert NJ on the App Store or Google Play Store. Opt-in to receive “Exposure Notifications”
- As you go about your day, the app will use Bluetooth to sense any “close contacts”—other app users who are within 6 feet of you for more than 10 minutes
- When your app senses a close contact, your phone will exchange a secure random code with the close contact’s phone. It’s important to note that your location and name are never disclosed
- If you test positive for COVID-19, a public health representative will call you and ask if you’re willing to anonymously notify your “close contacts” by uploading your app’s close contact codes
- Each day, the app will compare your list of close contact codes to the list of codes associated with positive COVID-19 app users. If there’s a match you will get an Exposure Alert, along with appropriate next steps
For more information, visit https://covid19.nj.gov/pages/app.
Protecting the public health
As many have heard, we made the difficult decision to temporarily close bars and restaurants at midnight to help limit situations where COVID-19 is more likely to spread. This was a decision that was made in consultation with the Office of Emergency Management and Director of Health, due to a number of factors:
- Our contact tracing has linked some COVID-19 cases to local bars and restaurants: During extensive contact tracing from the Hoboken Health Department, there have been COVID-19 cases linked to residents at various bars and restaurants in Hoboken. Contact tracing from other New Jersey health departments has linked COVID-19 cases from individuals from other cities to the bars and restaurants they visited in Hoboken as well.
- Understanding when COVID-19 is more likely to be spread: The late-night hours of 12 am to 2 am at bars are often times when alcohol is free flowing, resulting in less compliance with social distancing and health procedures, as well as congregation among social groups – which has been observed during those times by the Hoboken Police Department and COVID-19 social-distancing task force. Higher volumes of music combined with alcohol, makes it likely people talk louder and release more respiratory droplets, making transmission much more likely if someone has COVID-19.
- Limiting those from outside Hoboken and higher-risk areas: Often times visitors to our establishments between the 12 and 2 am are in the age group (20s and early 30s) more susceptible to COVID-19, especially so with rising infection rates.
- Freeing up Hoboken Police Department resources to combat house parties: The Hoboken Police Department typically allocates a number of resources related to bars during the late evening/early morning hours. Freeing those officers up will help with enforcement of house parties violating city ordinances and threatening the public health
- Compromising to limit impact to businesses: While some recommended to me to make 10 pm the time of closure for bars and restaurants, I felt that it was important to compromise to the midnight timing without impacting those sitting down to dinner indoors.
With our Health Department reporting recent COVID-19 cases linked to bars and restaurants, I felt it was in the best interest of our community’s health and safety to limit higher-risk situations when COVID-19 is more likely to be spread. At the end of the day, we are still in the midst of a deadly pandemic when our schools are closing in-person learning, seniors remain self-isolated at home, and residents remain unemployed – all while cases are currently surging in New Jersey, and other countries like France and Germany are locking down completely. Like I’ve done from the beginning, I’m going to follow the science and the best expert advice we have available to us and do so proactively – like we did in March – before an even greater surge of cases affects our City.
Why Close at Midnight?
A number of people have mentioned that COVID-19 doesn’t just appear after midnight. This is 100% true. However, as health experts have consistently recommended, it’s about limiting higher-risk situations when COVID-19 is more likely to spread. With cases significantly rising in a second wave, we’re likely to see more transmission occurring indoors, which include bar settings. And unfortunately, as opposed to gyms or schools when face masks can be worn, face masks can’t be worn indoors when eating or drinking, making it a higher-risk environment – especially late at night with alcohol when it is only natural to let your guard down.
I know the substantial impact this will have on our businesses and business owners, and that is certainly not lost upon me. Just like we did after the initial shutdown, we will continue to do everything we can to assist our businesses during these difficult times. We will also continue to monitor our infections, contact tracing results, and social distancing practices as we consider the public health implications of this decision over the next two weeks, at which point we will evaluate this decision.
Hoboken is not alone in making this decision – Newark has taken the steps to close indoor dining at 8 pm, while Paterson yesterday made the same decision as us, with a midnight closure. Other cities are also considering similar measures.
One additional note – all current outdoor cafes, parklets and streateries are permitted to operate until midnight from Thursday through Saturday and 11 pm from Sunday through Wednesday, reflecting additional hours for outdoor dining from an ordinance we passed earlier in the fall.
Testing update with Riverside Medical Group and Prompt MD
Riverside Medical Group: Appointments are now available for Hoboken residents for the week of November 2 at the testing site under the 14th Street Viaduct at www.hobokennj.gov/riverside.
To cancel a scheduled COVID-19 test booked with the Riverside online system, please send an email to the Hoboken Health Department as soon as conveniently possible to LMedeiros@HobokenNJ.gov. Riverside Medical patients should not utilize the online system and should call their Riverside primary care office to book an appointment.
Prompt MD: Appointments are available on Monday, November 2 and Thursday, November 5 at 605 Jackson Street for Hoboken residents and Hoboken business employees at www.hobokennj.gov/promptmd. Given the high demand for testing, Prompt MD will likely be adding an additional day of testing at 605 Jackson Street next week as well and we will provide that information as it becomes available.
To cancel a scheduled COVID-19 test with Prompt MD, please utilize the link sent via email or text sent from the Solv system.
As a reminder, all business employees should utilize the testing options with Prompt MD at 605 Jackson Street.
New online zoning map
With COVID-19 resulting in more visitors to our city website for information and city resources, we are pleased to announce the launch of a new interactive, online zoning map, which will be a resource to residents, business owners, property owners, and municipal staff. The map features information on zoning, redevelopment areas, historic districts, and flood zones, all at the parcel level, with links to zoning ordinances, tax maps, and redevelopment plans. The Department of Community Development will be continuously updating, improving, and adding to the map to bring greater clarity and transparency to municipal zoning regulations.
Please visit www.hobokennj.gov/zoning-map to begin exploring this new website.
Ravi S. Bhalla
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