New Jersey towns announce series of sweeping measures aimed at curbing coronavirus spread

Multiple towns in New Jersey on Thursday implemented a series of sweeping safety measures aimed at curbing the coronavirus outbreak that has put the world on edge.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy issued a public statement that recommended canceling all public gatherings – including concerts, sporting events, and parades – that exceeded more than 250 individuals.

“Our frontline efforts right now must be to aggressively mitigate the potential for exposure and further spread. We are taking this step because social distancing works,” Murphy said. “It is our best chance to ‘flatten the curve’ and mitigate the chance of rapid spread, so we can respond to this public health emergency in an even more focused manner.”

Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla announced that the city had declared a State of Emergency as it continues to make preparations to address the outbreak of the coronavirus, or COVID-19.

Though Hoboken has no confirmed cases, a State of Emergency will allow the city and its Office of Emergency Management (OEM) to take more proactive measures in the days and weeks ahead to protect its residents – many of whom work in New York, which has the second-highest number of cases in the United States, ranking behind Washington State.

To help manage the anticipated surge of patients with COVID-19, OEM has authorized the construction of a medical tent outside the Hoboken University Medical Center, Bhalla said.

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Jersey City has put in place a 10 p.m. curfew on establishments carrying a liquor license to reduce large crowd turnout, according to its website.

Public venues, including restaurants bars holding more than 25 people are also being asked to maintain attendance in case of future need to track exposure.

Mayor Steven M. Fulop had announced earlier this week that nonessential city-sponsored functions will be canceled for seven days, beginning Wednesday at 10 p.m.

FILE: Shelves that held hand sanitizer and hand soap are mostly empty at a Target in Jersey City, N.J. 

FILE: Shelves that held hand sanitizer and hand soap are mostly empty at a Target in Jersey City, N.J.  (AP)

In Newark, New Jersey’s most populous city, officials have advised that all non-essential public gatherings be canceled for the next 30 days. The city defines a “non-essential group event” as a gathering of 250 people or more for social, cultural, or entertainment events where people are not separated by physical space of at least four feet.

Mayor Ras J. Baraka also announced that his Sixth Annual State of the City Address set for next Monday at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center has been postponed for at least 30 days.

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The mayors’ efforts stand in noticeable contrast to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who announced Thursday that he wanted Broadway events, schools and public transportation to remain open, despite a jump in COVID-19 cases in the city.

But afterward, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a ban of gatherings of 500 or more in New York City, effectively forcing the hand of Broadway producers who had previously said that Broadway would be “open for business” unless advised not to by the government.

Broadway is shutting down, and shows will resume the week of April 13, only 10 days before the official cut-off for eligibility for the Tony Awards. Cuomo said venues of under 500 can only be filled to half their capacity.

The move comes a day after Broadway’s two largest theater chains revealed that a part-time usher and security guard who worked at two theaters in recent days tested positive for COVID-19 and was under quarantine.

De Blasio also said that he hopes to avoid drastic measures such as shutting the city’s entire public-school system or its subways.

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“I’m a believer that we have to be careful not to destroy people’s livelihoods, not to destroy the opportunity for our kids to be in a safe place learning every day in school,” he said. “And yet we’re going to have to introduce more and more restrictions, which we’re certainly going to be doing in New York City today and tomorrow.”

Fox News Stephen Sorace and The Associated Press contributed to this report.