July 6, 2020

Important update from Mayor Bhalla on COVID-19: 13 new cases, 12 from travel to hot spot states

Below is an update from Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla on COVID-19:

Last night, I was alerted by the Hoboken Health Department that over the past two days, Hoboken has seen a rise in new confirmed COVID-19 cases of 6 cases on Thursday, and 7 on Friday. This is the highest two-day total since mid-May.

What the Hoboken Health Department has observed with the recent two-day spike of 13 cases on Thursday and Friday, thanks to their quick and diligent contact tracing, is that all 13 of the new cases traveled for work or pleasure outside of Hoboken to states with rising COVID-19 rates. 12 of the 13 went to states on New Jersey’s quarantine list, including Florida, Texas, North Carolina and South Carolina. The very clear, common thread is that all 13 cases traveled to states with alarming rates of rising COVID-19 – states which opened up too early and are now suffering the repercussions. To clarify a common question, none of these new cases in June were linked to Hoboken’s peaceful demonstration for racial justice, as we’ve mentioned previously.

This is a trend that we began to see on June 20, when we had 7 new cases reported in one day. From June 20 until July 1, Hoboken saw 30 new cases, and thanks to the proactive work of the Health Department and Dr. Brahmbhatt, we learned the large majority of these cases followed the same pattern – the majority tested positive after traveling to out-of-state COVID hot spots. This trend isn’t unique to Hoboken or the region. We’ve seen similar reports from across the country, including California, where many residents tested positive after Memorial Day gatherings, contributing to the rise in their states. If residents aren’t careful, and we don’t take this initial trend here in Hoboken seriously, which is bound to be replicated in municipalities across the State, we could set our region back further to the point where we have to resort to stay at home orders, close local businesses, and more.

Here are some other important notes from these 13 recent positive cases on Thursday and Friday – all have been under the age of 45, with the majority between the ages of 20 and 35 and attended gatherings with groups of people in both in indoor and outdoor settings. We’re aware that at this time, none of these cases are serious, and we wish all of our residents a speedy recovery.

What’s especially troubling is that of these 13 recent positive cases, some of those that tested positive exhibited no symptoms. But, thankfully they heeded our call we previously put alerting residents to this early trend, and to get tested if you traveled to a hot spot state, even if they did not exhibit symptoms of COVID-19. This proactive testing by those residents likely helped prevent further infections, but reiterates a critical point – if you’ve traveled to a hot spot state, you quarantine for 14 days. Just because you don’t have symptoms or think you’re fully healthy, doesn’t mean you are. Let me repeat – for all Hoboken residents – if you’ve traveled to any of the 16 states identified by Governor Murphy, or are traveling to these regions this weekend – it is absolutely imperative that when you return, that you stay at home for 14 days.

If you haven’t yet traveled to these 16 states, which include Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah but have plans to do so – I urge you to strongly reconsider and limit all unnecessary travel at all practical times.

If you are currently traveling to these regions for the 4th of July weekend, or taking any type of vacation, I urge everyone, in the strongest terms, to take the following precautions.

  1. Wear a face mask and always social distance at least six feet from others at all times. We keep saying this over and over, but health experts say that this is by far and away the best way to help curb the spread of COVID-19. Others wear face masks to protect you, and you should in turn wear one to protect others.
  2. Avoid any type of gatherings. If you’re in a gathering in any situation, especially a hot spot state, you’re putting yourself at risk. Don’t place yourself in settings where social distancing is not possible.
  3. If you are meeting friends and family, do so outdoors, and avoid any physical contact. We know that outdoors is much safer than indoor settings, and social distancing while not sharing any food or drinks is critical. Avoid any type of indoor gathering that isn’t with immediate members of your household
  4. When you return to Hoboken, self-quarantine yourself and get tested for COVID-19 at least 5-7 days after returning. Residents should not get a test within the first 24 hours or less than 5 days after returning as getting a test too early could lead to a false negative. In Hoboken, we’re fortunate that we have a public testing site right here in our mile square, and receiving a test is easy – all you have to do is call 201-420-5621 on our City Hall hotline, and you’re eligible for a 15-minute rapid result test. And, if you don’t have insurance, the City will pay for the cost of your test. Already, 5,000 residents and business employees have gotten tested at this site.
  5. Even after you get a test, and it’s negative, you still must quarantine for the remainder of the 14 days.

These precautions aren’t just limited to those who are going on vacation – they apply to all Hoboken residents in all locations, even those staying within our mile square. If you’re out here in Hoboken, please – wear a mask. I can’t stress this enough – if you’re not wearing a face mask, you’re putting others in danger. As some of these 13 cases indicated, residents don’t have symptoms of COVID-19 but have the virus. Asymptomatic residents, combined with the lack of face masks, is the perfect recipe to infect other more vulnerable populations. Do the right thing – wear a face mask.

Our State’s Governor, Phil Murphy, has been a leader not just on the east coast, but nationally in keeping COVID-19 contained in our state, and I can’t thank him enough for his leadership in keeping New Jersey residents safe.  If New Jersey, like other states in our country, either mandates the wearing of face masks or grants municipalities like Hoboken the authority to institute a face mask requirement, the Governor would have my full support.

As our society slowly re-opens, it is highly likely that cases would rise. We’ve said this from the very beginning.  However, it’s imperative for us as a City, to do everything we can to double down on social distancing, wearing a face mask, and be mindful about the recent trends of traveling out of state. As a City, we can’t legally prohibit travel to other states, but what we can do is take the necessary precautions to assume everyone around us could have COVID-19. Until a vaccine is found, this is the best and most effective way to stay safe.