New Jersey coronavirus update: Newark imposes curfew, other restrictions as COVID cases surge

Coronavirus Update New Jersey
NEW JERSEY -- Residents in some parts of New Jersey's largest city are facing a 9 p.m. curfew for at least the rest of the month as officials seek to stop a surge in coronavirus infections.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka announced the new measures Wednesday. They include a mandatory 9 p.m. weekday curfew and 10 p.m. weekend curfew for parts of three zip codes where virus cases have spiked recently.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a fellow Democrat, said Thursday he will sign an executive order to give towns and cities the option to limit hours at non-essential businesses after 8 p.m. Murphy's decision is a change from the spring when he ordered statewide closures and declined to adopt a regional approach.

In Newark, indoor and outdoor gatherings are limited to 10 people, and all sports in the city are suspended for at least two weeks. The city also is restricting visitation at long-term health care facilities for the same duration.

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At a news conference Thursday, Baraka said recent data shows the percentage of positive cases in Newark has risen from around 6 percent to more than 19 percent in the last month, with some neighborhoods far above that level.

"The data is reminiscent of April and May, and we cannot afford to go back there," he said. "As a matter of fact, it's better to say we are back where we were in April and May. It's difficult for everybody, and it's going to take all of us to make sacrifices for this thing to go away. We're not a city of individuals, we're a city of neighborhoods, of communities, and we have to take care of each other."

Newark has recorded more than 13,000 cases and 680 deaths since the start of the pandemic, Baraka said.

Tony Aquino, who owns Diame's Cafe in north Newark in one of the areas affected by the curfew, said business had gotten better a few months ago when the virus appeared to recede, but that foot traffic had slowed considerably lately and would be reduced more by the curfew.

"We're trying to survive right now," he said. "We have to keep paying the rent, the garbage, the electric, the gas, the employees. It's a lot. And it's not easy. My wife had a dream, she made this place and we tried to do what we can to keep it running. But only God knows what's going to happen."

Newark's new restrictions go beyond statewide measures announced earlier in the week by Murphy, who ordered bars and restaurants to halt indoor dining between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. beginning Thursday.

Nonessential businesses in Newark already must close at 8 p.m. and restaurant and bars must cease indoor service at 8 p.m., under an executive order signed by the mayor two weeks ago.

The famed Ironbound District near downtown Newark is one of New Jersey's most vibrant neighborhoods. But by 9:03 on Thursday night, everyone was gone.

There were empty streets and barren sidewalks, except for a random visitor from outside Newark looking for dinner.

"Something's dead inside. No life. I don't know how to explain, sad sad it's like a funeral, everybody's hiding," Elaine Lopez said.

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