Today, Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla and the Hoboken Office of Emergency Management announced new requirements to boost contact tracing efforts in an effort to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks and protect the health and safety of the Hoboken community. As of Friday, November 20, Hoboken businesses including restaurants, bars, gyms, wellness establishments, fitness studios, salons, and health clubs will be required to record contact information and time of arrival of customers. Information collected by the business will only be shared with the Hoboken Health Department in the event of a positive COVID-19 case, and will only be utilized for contact tracing purposes.
The new requirement is not required for take-out or delivery services, or for grocery stores, bodegas, retail stores, dry cleaners, or any situation where a customer is not in a prolonged contact with other customers or employees.
The Office of Emergency Management directive also requires all businesses to notify the Hoboken Health Department in the instance of an employee testing positive for COVID-19, to facilitate contact tracing. Businesses can confidentially notify the Hoboken Health Department of an employee testing positive for COVID-19 by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below is an update Mayor Bhalla provided to the Hoboken public regarding the new regulations:
“I’m extremely appreciative to the majority of businesses for taking the necessary health precautions to keep both their employees and customers safe. It has been a very challenging time for our small business owners, but above all else I know they care about the health and safety of our community. Despite these best efforts, unfortunately the Hoboken Health Department has reported an uptick in employees of local businesses, including bars and restaurants, testing positive for COVID-19.
To provide improved contact tracing efforts linked to any potential cases with local establishments, the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) has signed a new Directive requiring bars, restaurants, fitness and health clubs, salons, gyms and wellness establishments to maintain a record of contact information of all customers, along with the time of arrival. In the event an employee who has had contact with customers, tests positive for COVID-19, the business would provide the contact information of all impacted customers to the Hoboken Health Department to facilitate detailed contact tracing. Customers could then be contacted and given the appropriate health guidance from the health department and alerted to a potential exposure. Information collected by business would only be used for COVID-19 contact tracing efforts through the Hoboken Health Department and can be discarded by the business after 30 days.
This order is not meant to place an unnecessary burden on our small businesses, but rather to assist them in keeping customers safe in the event of a positive case, prevent outbreaks, and to provide health guidance to customers. This is a process that has been successfully implemented in places such as New York City and Michigan, and I’m confident this step will provide a net benefit to our businesses and provide an extra level of safety to customers.
I’m also thankful to the many businesses who have already established a procedure to collect this information, including some that collect reservations and appointments electronically, which are sufficient for the purposes of OEM’s executive order.
Additionally, the Hoboken Health Department has notified my office that a common issue when staff members of local businesses, who are not Hoboken residents, have tested positive. Typically, when an employee of a local business who is a Hoboken resident tests positive, the Hoboken Health Department is notified once the test results are submitted by the respective laboratory, and then contact tracing can occur. However, if the employee is not a Hoboken resident, the Health Department is often times not notified, and contact tracing may be delayed or does not occur. To address this important health issue, the Directive also requires an employer or representative of the establishment to notify the Health Department of a positive COVID-19 case involving an employee. The Health Department should be notified by emailing email@example.com, information that will only be viewed by Hoboken health officers or Health Director.
Again, this is not meant to provide an unnecessary administrative step for businesses, but is instead a way for our health department to work collaboratively with business owners to ensure the health and safety of customers and employees. I thank our business owners in advance for their consideration and cooperation.”