LETTER: In light of COVID outbreak, Jersey City should hold off on reopening municipal buildings


In a letter to the editor, Jersey City resident Esther Wintner says that in light of a recent COVID-19 outbreak, the City of Jersey City should hold off on reopening municipal buildings.

Photo via City of Jersey City.

Dear Editor,

Last week, an article in NJ.com informed the public of 18 Jersey City police and fire dispatchers taken ill by COVID19, with one in hospital. It is our understanding that one employee has passed away.

This is a concern for various reasons including the response time in answering 911 calls for dispatching public safety personnel, and the health of municipal employees.

While it may be the case that dispatchers must work on site due to the type of phone and computer systems necessary to perform their duties, those requirements are not the same for all municipal employees such as those that work in administrative functions.

In January, Jersey City municipal employees were notified by HR that they were no longer required to take COVID testing every 30 days.

This change of policy came at a time when the number of positive COVID tests were increased and on an upward trajectory according to the Jersey City Tableau chart for COVID-19 cases.

According to the Tableau, the number of positive cases in March 2021 fall within the same range as spring 2020 and are nowhere near the low numbers we saw during the summer of 2020.

The NY Times Covid tracker classifies Hudson County at an “Extremely High Risk” of exposure to Covid19 with only 14% fully vaccinated as of April 6th.

In the interest of the public, CivicJC would like to see the following information made available:

-What is the contingency plan for emergency dispatch in the case of reduced number of dispatchers or in the event that all dispatchers are out
-Copy of the uniform practice of informing employees when someone tests positive in the same building
-Schedules of building sanitation and vent cleaning including the protocols that are followed
-The number of employees that tested positive for Covid (including dates and work location)
-Will Council members, Planning and Zoning Board members, and Municipal Court meet with each other in person for meetings

Tuesday’s announcement to mandate employees back to the office in full force does not seem to follow a logical safe practice for a return to office given the current high positive rate and the non-requirement of Covid testing for employees.

While we recognize that not all employees can perform their duties from home, where it is possible employees should continue on a work from home with a rotating schedule for onsite work to keep contact and possible transmission to a minimum.

We value the health and well being of our municipal employees and recognize that keeping distance helps to minimize transmission of the virus which is in their best interest and the best interest for the public as well in reducing COVID19 transmission numbers.
Hudson County, New Jersey Covid Case Tracker – The New York Times (nytimes.com).

Esther Wintner

Editor’s note: This letter was initially addressed to Mayor Steven Fulop and the Jersey City Council and was written prior to a report that said a dispatcher infected with COVID-19 died.

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