NJ Coronavirus Update: Newark's 10-day stay-at-home advisory takes effect amid rising COVID cases

New Jersey coronavirus update
NEWARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- A 10-day stay-at-home advisory took effect in Newark Wednesday, with city leaders hoping to curb rising COVID-19 cases as the holiday weekend arrives.

Mayor Ras Baraka says the city will close streets in the Ironbound district to non-residents from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m., and people will only be allowed to pass through if they show proof of residency.

He is encouraging "everybody close down" and get tested during the holiday period, with the stay-at-home advisory lasting until Friday, December 4.

"We are advising all stores non-essential, also the corner stores too, everybody close down," Baraka said last week. "Not just the stores. Workplaces, barber shops, beauty parlors, gyms, everything shut down from Wednesday, November 25 to December 4. We are giving you a chance to prepare. November 25 to December 4, we are asking everything to be shut down. Shut it all down...And during that period, we are asking everyone to get tested. You should (go) outside only if you are getting tested, only if you need groceries, Pampers, milk, medicine, and if you are get tested. Other than that, we have a stay-at-home advisory from Wednesday the 25 to December 4. All of us, we need to do this."

Baraka said the city would distribute $2 million to small businesses, up to $25,000 per business, that abide by the advisory and closed for the 10-day period.

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A quarter of that money will be distributed to small businesses in the three hardest hit zip codes.

"Because they were hardest hit and we closed them down earlier than we closed everyone else down," Baraka said.

Baraka warned businesses that remain open during the shutdown that they would be ineligible for the money.

Despite that warning, a number of non-essential businesses were open on Thursday and residents were also seen out defying the measure.

Baraka said the city is going business by business, telling store owners who are still open to close their doors.

Meanwhile, Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Twitter Thursday that the state reported another 4,565 new positive cases of COVID-19 and 39 new deaths.

The resurgence of the virus in New Jersey has been amplified in Newark, its largest city, and particularly in the Ironbound, the heart of the city's Spanish and Portuguese communities and the epicenter of Newark's nightlife.

The test positivity rate has soared as high as 50% there recently, and stood at about 40% according to the most recent data furnished by the city. The overall rate in Newark is about 20%, about double the statewide rate.

Those numbers in the Ironbound and in two other zip codes in the city prompted Mayor Ras Baraka to impose a 9 p.m. curfew two weeks ago in those areas.

Last weekend, checkpoints were set up at entrances to the Ironbound, with only residents or people with essential business allowed in. The police department and mayor's office didn't answer questions Wednesday about whether those checkpoints would resume during the next 10 days.

Baraka, who was born and raised in Newark and worked as a high school principal there for many years, defended the measures and said people who have accused him of pandering or fear-mongering "are living in a fantasy world, they don't have a grip on the reality of what's happening in these neighborhoods."

"We have so much power to protect the people in our community, or be selfish and watch them perish," he said during a briefing this week. "History will record either one we decide to do."

Baraka said during a video briefing this week that Newark, which has a population of roughly 280,000, has reported nearly 600 new cases and four deaths since last Friday.

In addition to the money for small businesses, Baraka said another $2 million would go to help pay for up to three months of rent for local families and tenants "for people who are struggling to pay their rent during this time."

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