UNION COUNTY, NJ — With the surge in COVID-19 cases, Gov. Phil Murphy recently signed Executive Order No. 194, which includes new mitigation measures that place restrictions on seating and hours for restaurants, bars, clubs and lounges and a prohibition on interstate indoor K-12 and youth sports.
These measures went into effect on Thursday, Nov. 12, at 6 a.m. Indoor dining is prohibited from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., although outdoor dining can continue after 10 p.m., as can take out and delivery services. Social distancing restrictions will prohibit bar seating and greatly limit the number of people allowed to dine indoors, although some restaurants are using Department of Health–compliant plastic barriers indoors and plastic domes outdoors to separate people.
Although all interstate games and tournaments involving indoor sports, from youth to high school, are prohibited, collegiate and professional sports are unaffected.
“All of the restrictions generally limit the ability of businesses to make money and pay their expenses,” Summit Downtown Inc. Executive Director Nancy Adams said on Friday, Nov. 13. “They are pivoting as much as they can, and we are notifying them as new executive orders come out.”
Adams said that, while many people don’t feel safe coming out to support downtown businesses, they do have the option of ordering by phone or online. Only through public support will businesses be able to survive to the end of the pandemic. Adams said the second wave of the virus had struck financial fear into the community.
“We don’t know if and which businesses will survive such tough restrictions and hope people try their best to shop local to help,” said Adams. “We continue to roll with the punches and are working with the city to do whatever we can to support the businesses. We’re about to give grant checks to the businesses, too, which we hope will help them at least a little bit.”
Still, many community leaders have expressed concern that fear may paralyze their municipalities.
“Yes, there is a fear within the community this time around concerning public spaces, but, as long as people continue to maintain a safe social distance and wear masks, people are more comfortable with being in public spaces,” David Guida, program coordinator of the Summit Department of Community Programs, said on Friday, Nov. 13. “Regarding a plan of closure, we will only close parks and public spaces if social distancing and mask guidelines are not being followed.”
“We are following all state of New Jersey guidelines and the new indoor dining curfew of 10 p.m. and no seating at bars,” said Summit’s chief communications officer, Amy Cairns, on Friday, Nov. 13. “This is another challenge for local restaurants and bars to manage but is in keeping with best practices during a time when COVID-19 cases are increasing.”
Cairns confirmed that cases were still occurring in Summit but insisted precautions were being taken.
“There were eight new cases today and 35 this month,” she said. “We are following state guidelines and will continue to do so. We are messaging about proper social distancing and mask guidelines. Next week, we will be posting yard signs with ‘Wear a Mask’ messaging in English and Spanish to reach residents in all parts of town.
“We are well into a second wave. Our message to all is, even though it is difficult to spend time away from your family and friends, please only spend time indoors with your immediate family. Wear a mask and maintain a safe social distance to keep everyone safe. The restrictions are absolutely justified. The city of Summit is committed to implementing guidance that keeps our community safe.”
With most decisions regarding the school districts already made, the recent surge has not had much impact on the schools, said Laurene Callander, Summit’s communications officer.
“These new restrictions don’t really impact our indoor sports for the winter season, because we were already planning on not allowing spectators at competitions,” said Callander on Monday, Nov. 16. “The governor recently tweeted the guidance when it comes to indoor sports, so we will be following those recommendations.”
According to Callander, the recommendations state: “Indoor sports practices or competitions will be allowed to exceed the 10-person limit — only for individuals necessary, such as players, coaches and referees. In most cases, where those necessary individuals exceed 10 people, spectators will not be permitted.”
Linden officials confirmed that they are feeling the effects as well.
“The restrictions placed in our area are the recent restrictions placed by the governor under Executive Order No. 195,” said Rebecca Kerins-Tattoli, confidential secretary to Linden Mayor Derek Armstead, on Monday, Nov. 16. “Fortunately, unlike the original lockdown back in March, our small retail businesses will be open and can still operate with some kind of normalcy.”
On Monday, Nov. 16, alone, she said, there were 19 new cases in Linden.
“Right now, we’re promoting wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands, staying home if not feeling well or running a low-grade fever,” she said.
“There are COVID-19 cases in Linden,” Linden Health Officer Nancy Koblis said on Friday, Nov. 13. “Our first positive case was reported on March 14, 2020. To date, we have received reports of 2,038 positive cases in Linden. COVID-19 cases have begun to surge in Linden. Thus far, for the month of November, 266 reports of positive cases have been received. This is more than what was received for the months of June, July and August collectively. Case investigation and contact tracing is ongoing, in an effort to slow the spread.
“Residents must be reminded to wear face coverings, social distance, wash their hands often and stay home if they are not feeling well.”
“The city of Linden recreation centers have been closed since the spring,” said Department of Parks and Recreation Director Ralph Dunhamn on Thursday, Nov. 12. “Since our buildings have been closed to the public, these new restrictions will not have an impact on our current operation. Recreation has transitioned to virtual programming. Parks are open in line with the governor’s executive order.”
The schools in Linden have responded to the pandemic in much the same way as the schools in Summit.
“The good news is that we don’t have any indoor sports playing now, so the new regulations will not affect any of our fall sports other than spectator limitations,” said Steve Viana, Linden School District’s director of Health, Physical Education, Medical Services and Athletics, on Monday, Nov. 16. “I think that is beneficial to our student-athletes, who will still have the opportunity to play. I’m sure, if you were to poll any student-athlete, you will find that they are just really happy to be playing, period.
“The news today regarding the indoor limitations will play a much larger role when we get set to move into our winter season on Dec. 3. We are confident that the NJSIAA will remain in contact with the Governor’s Office and offer guidance, as they have done thus far. Once we get updated guidance from the NJSIAA, we’ll be happy to implement whatever regulations and guidelines they provide for the remainder of fall and the upcoming winter sports.”
Clark officials have confirmed that their response is largely the same as the responses of other municipalities.
“The township is still closed to the public,” said Jennifer Kobliska, the secretary to Clark Mayor Sal Bonaccorso, on Friday, Nov. 13. “If a resident or business needs to conduct business in person, they need to make an appointment with the correct department. We are also sending out COVID updates from the Health Department weekly. During these updates, we are encouraging our residents to keep 6 feet apart, mask up and wash their hands as much as possible.”
“We disinfect every day and restrict the number of children in the gyms,” said Clark Recreation Director Ralph Bernardo. “You must be a resident to use the gyms, must wear a mask, and are also required to fill out paperwork and current temperature reading.
“The restrictions aren’t a challenge for public parks, because no one is there to enforce precautions compared to the rec center. The fears are the same as when this happened in the spring, and the media is not helping matters.”
According to Bernardo, if COVID-19 cases begin to surge uncontrollably in Clark, everything will be closed immediately.
“Chamber of Commerce are organizers of business,”said Jim Coyle, the president of Gateway Regional Chamber of Commerce, on Friday, Nov. 13. “These restrictions affect certain kinds of businesses. In this case, we’re talking about bars and restaurants within Clark and other towns and cities, mainly establishments that depend on late-night drinking.”
Officials confirm that Clark’s school district is waiting for guidelines, in much the same manner as other school districts.
“Our schools remain open, with the exception of Valley Road School that is closed to in-person students through and including Nov. 24. We wanted to err on the side of caution, due to two unrelated positive cases at that school within two days last week,” said Clark Superintendent of Schools Edward Grande on Monday, Nov. 16. “We are awaiting additional guidance from the state regarding indoor winter sports.”