Hoboken is the first city on the East Coast to announce a “self-isolation” order as COVID-19 continues to spread across the region and the globe.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Mayor Ravi Bhalla called a 4 p.m. press conference on about an hour’s notice, confirming speculation that the city – which has a population of about 55,000 – would be adopting their own version of San Francisco’s “shelter in place” order.
“Today, we’re issuing the new policy of self isolation within our Mile Square City,” Bhalla said. “Whether you feel sick or not, all residents should immediately begin self isolating at home.”
“As the fourth most densely populated city in the entire country … the spread in our cities close quarters could be deadly and literally result in the lives of thousands our most vulnerable residents,” he added.
The order, effective beginning at 9 a.m. Wednesday, urges residents to limit trips outside the home to “essential needs” such as food shopping, obtaining medicine, and other necessary supplies for household members.
“The policy, similar to the one enacted San Francisco just yesterday, requires people to stay home except for essential needs: the purchasing of food, care for of a family member of friend, to get health care, or employment where remote work is not possible,” Bhalla said.
The mayor also indicated that enforcement would be “gentle” in the beginning as residents get acclimate to the changes.
“We are very hopeful that the city will cooperate … we expect that there will not be 100 percent compliance, but we are going to take a gentle approach,” he explained.
“You will not see a mass crackdown or see people arrested. You will not see any aggressive actions” he added, noting that their first priority will be education the public on this new policy.
“We are not prohibiting people from going for a jog… but doing so in a responsible manner.”
The mayor further stated that any public gatherings are being reduced to five or less people, while also encouraging places of worship to suspend services.
The order will take effort tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. and last for one week, at which point the city’s Office of Emergency Management will reevaluate the situation.
Bhalla said the decision was made after much of the cities bars and restaurants were “packed to the brim” on Friday and Saturday night.
Police Chief Kenneth Ferrante followed his remarks, adding that weekend’s behavior at local bars “mirrored a spring break atmosphere” this weekend in the middle of the pandemic, noting that assaults, people spitting in each others faces, and pedestrians being struck by auto all took place on Saturday.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to dig deep and ask ourselves the question: have we done everything within our power to limit, through our own actions, if our region suffers the way Italy has suffered. The answer so far is no,” Bhalla later said.
Hoboken was the first in the country to introduce a citywide 10 p.m. curfew on Saturday, which also shuttered bars, and limited restaurants to takeout and delivery services the following morning.
Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced similar measures on eateries throughout the state yesterday.
Additionally, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said today that a shelter-in-place order being considered, and urged residents to prepare for the possibility, according to the Associated Press.
“This will hopefully spur other municipalities and states to take similar actions, which will literally save lives,” Bhalla also said.
“We have a responsibility to the most vulnerable among us, including our seniors, children and those with compromised immune systems.”
A second directive will also be implemented by Hoboken OEM closing a number of non-essential businesses, according to Bhalla.
This evening, the mayor’s office sent an email listing exceptions other than the ones previously noted such as banks, coffee shops, veterinarians, pet shops, liquor stores, the post office, moving companies – among others.
Earlier today, New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli announced that there were six more cases of the coronavirus diagnosed in Hudson County since Monday, which would bring the total up to 25.
The mayor said at the beginning of the presser that the city had no other cases to report at this time.
The presser streamed live on our Facebook page and can be viewed below:
News correspondent Corey McDonald contributed to this report.
Editor’s note: This story was updated with new information.