City Council urges residents to wear face coverings in public spaces

by Ricky Rillera

JERSEY CITY, NJ – Residents of Jersey City are now officially urged to wear non-medical face masks or coverings in public after the City Council approved a resolution to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve. People are to wear them when they are outside of their homes, on sidewalks, and open parks. Also, the practice pf social distancing, and frequent hand washing are to continue and encouraged.

Resolution 20-307, introduced by councilman at large Rolando Lavarro, Jr. was unanimously approved on May 6. It will be in effect until New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy lifts the state emergency.  Yousef Saleh voted for the first time at this meeting. Saleh is the council’s newly appointed member that replaced the late Michael Yun of Ward D who died due to complications to COVID-19.

READ JERSEY CITY FIL-AMS’ REACTION

Lavarro was glad that the resolution was approved after the public responded positively to a petition he issued earlier informing them of the need for rigorous safety measures.

Municipal Council Hall of the City of Jersey |
Courtesy of HMR Architects

 ” …[I}t (resolution) reinforces and amplifies the message that we cannot let up in our fight against COVID-19, particularly as the City reopens its economy, Lavarro told the Philippine Daily Mirror.  He also acknowledged that the Council “agreed unanimously that this is a necessity.”

Last month, Lavarro recovered from the deadly virus and earlier expressed his concerns about the reopening of five city parks on April 27. He said it was “premature and should be delayed.”  The parks which reopened were Audubon, Berry Lane, Enos Jones, Leonard Gordon, and Pershing Field Park. Liberty Park and Lincoln Park were added later.

“Public health experts and scientists are predicting a second wave, i.e. future outbreaks, and other places have seen the negative impact when you begin to relax restrictions,” Lavarro wrote on his Facebook page. He cited Germany as an example where an uptick in their cases were observed after reopening. “

“I have grave concerns, serious concerns about the reopening of the parks, Lavarro said in his Facebook Live video. “I’m concerned that this was done a little too hastily and maybe some more preparation should have been put in place.” In his video, Lavarro was in Audubon Park and showed littered face masks and latex gloves. “People could be exposing themselves to those masks and whatnot,” said Lavarro.

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop (left), Councilman at Large Rolando Lavarro, Jr.
| PDM File Photo

In an interview with NJ.com, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop accused Lavarro of “practicing politics” and said that Jersey City’s parks were “really important to the wellness of residents.”

But Lavarro denied the accusation of his former ally on the council. “I’m speaking as a Councilman with a solemn obligation to protect our residents, and as someone who tested positive, was hospitalized and has been fortunate to have recovered,” he wrote on Facebook. “When 278 of our beloved residents have been lost to this vicious virus, taking all the necessary measures to protect lives is a moral imperative.”

According to the New Jersey Department of Health, as of May 1, there are 121,190 cases and 7,538 deaths.  Jersey City has 5,329 cases and 285 deaths (as of April 29).

Lavarro said that the resolution is not binding under the law. “It simply urges residents to wear a face-covering in public spaces. As such, it is not enforced by local police, and no fines or penalties can be imposed if one is not wearing a mask in public space.”

The historic downtown Farmer’s Market is scheduled to reopen on Monday, May 11 according to a report. The Market will span both the Grove PATH Plaza and the First Green area of the Newark Avenue Pedestrian Mall for added space and make it easier for social distancing. A reduced number of vendors for the first couple of market days is expected to ensure added comfort to everyone.

When asked to comment about the reopening of farmers’ markets, Lavarro noted that their presence is essential in this crisis. However, he was concerned about its design. “The design of such markets is known for its intimacy, sampling of the product, customers trying things out and lingering – all of which increases the risk of exposure,” he said.  “I intend to check on the market’s operation with an eye toward public health first and foremost.”

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