Mayor Ras J. Baraka presented the first phase of the plan to re-open New Jersey’s largest city beginning June 1 during a press conference at NJPAC today at noon. The Mayor called the phase “preparation” to look at how the City might eventually re-open.
“Phase One is about us getting prepared to open. We’re advancing, but it also gives us room to retreat if the numbers go back up,” Baraka said. “Our top priority is the health and safety of our residents.”
The Mayor’s decision is based on data that shows a continued decline in COVID-19 cases and from the recommendations of the “Newark Reopening and Recovery Strikeforce.” The data collected shows while Newark has increased testing 100 percent, the percentage of people who have tested positive has dropped dramatically, as well as reported cases and deaths.
As part of Phase One, the City will institute a color-coded system to “give people information they need to have to make informed choices about the risks,” Mayor Baraka said.
Businesses, restaurants, parks and other public places will display color-coded signage, with red being the highest risk area, yellow more moderate, and green the lowest risk area.
The Mayor gave the example of basketball courts probably being coded red because of the crowds and the nature of the game which does not favor social distancing.
“We want people to know if you go to these places, you run a high risk of getting sick,” he said.
Other Phase One components include:
· Recreation centers, parks and playgrounds will remain closed; block parties and special events will remain on hold. All faith-based services can be held via teleconference or virtually.
· Information centers will be established in each ward and 4311 will be expanded to include a dedicated COVID-19 information hotline. Additionally, a technology task force will be created to develop a sustainable citywide strategy for universal access to Wi-Fi and the hardware necessary for remote learning.
· An isolation and quarantine plan will be developed for those who cannot create one themselves. Guidance will be provided around emotional hurdles and fears related to medical mistrust.
· Lastly, letters will be sent to all businesses requesting plans to ensure the safety of their employees and the general public. City licensing, approvals and permitting processes will be adjusted to streamline what can be expedited and waived.
The Newark Recovery and Reopening Strikeforce, led by Chief of Staff Amiri Baraka, Jr. and Newark Alliance CEO Aisha Glover, will continue to work collaboratively while other phases are rolled out as well. The committees within the strikeforce are as follows:
· Public Health Committee, co-led by Dr. Perry N. Halkitis, Dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health and Michellene Davis, Executive Vice President and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer of RWJBarnabas Health
· Economic Recovery Committee, led by Lata Reddy, Senior Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion & Impact at Prudential
· Data Collection and Analysis Committee, led by Phil Scott, Director of Engineering for the City of Newark
· Education Committee, led by Dr. Lauren Wells, Founder and President, Creed Strategies
· Faith-Based Organizations, led by Rev. Louise Scott-Rountree, Clergy Affairs, City of Newark
· Arts, Recreation and Culture Committee, led by Linda Harrison, Director and CEO of Newark Museum
· Community Outreach and Engagement Committee, co-led by the Honorable Mildred C. Crump, President of the City of Newark Municipal Council and Ron Chaluisán, Executive Director of the Newark Trust for Education
· Communications Committee, led by Kay Sarlin Wright, Director of Corporate Affairs and Communications for Audible