Urban mayors stand together against the threat of COVID-19

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ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — Essex County is once again plagued with COVID-19 cases. Refusing to tolerate an uncontrolled rise in cases for the second time, the mayors of Irvington, Newark, Orange and East Orange came together via Facebook Live to address these concerns on Nov. 16

During the discussion, despite praising the efforts of Gov. Phil Murphy, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka pointed out that 58 more people had died over the weekend in New Jersey since Friday, Nov. 13.

“The test positivity rate in New Jersey is at 12.02 percent. In Newark, it was at 21.87 percent,” Baraka said Nov. 16. “Which means that our test positivity rate is two times higher than the state. If we did the same thing the state was doing, we would still be behind. That’s what I mean by equal actions don’t provide equal results. We need equity. Equity is based on the fact that there’s something different going on in different parts of the state and we need our remedy to be different across the state.”

Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren agreed with Baraka.

“These numbers are not out of the way,” Warren said Nov. 16. “I have to be concerned with what happens in Newark, East Orange and Irvington because there’s an ease of transportation between our cities. We’re all family, so we’re going to congregate, but we have to make sure that we’re careful. The analogy Baraka gave earlier of how one instance can turn into a thousand instances — that knows no border. Your cousin in Orange can get it from your cousin in Irvington, or Newark, or East Orange. So that’s why we have to unite around fighting this virus. I want people to stand with us.”

East Orange Mayor Ted Green discussed where his city currently stands in the face of COVID-19.

“Over the last week, we saw over 2,908 people who have been infected,” Green said Nov. 16. “But between Nov. 14 and Nov. 15, 14 additional people were infected by COVID. The deaths here in East Orange are 224. To the average person, it may not be a lot, but any death is too many. Baraka alluded to these private parties where people are going home and infecting other members of the family.

“Again, we are taking a stronger approach across the board,” Green continued. “Residents who think they can leave Newark and come to East Orange at a certain time because Newark, Orange or Irvington shuts down — we’re not doing that. We’re working together to make sure that the surrounding towns and cities are equal when it comes to putting a boundary on COVID-19.”

Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss exhibited tough love and urged township residents to be tested.

“One of the big expressions we’d like to relay today is why are we here,” Vauss said Nov. 16. “We’re here because we want to save lives. We have this Facebook Live today because our communities are connected. Whether we’re in Irvington, East Orange, Newark or Orange, we’re connected. It’s incumbent upon us to try to tackle this problem together. People need to take this virus very seriously. It’s important for us to understand that we are putting other people in our community in danger when we don’t do the things that we’re supposed to do.

“It’s not just one community, it’s all communities. It’s all four of our communities, which is why we’re coming together now,” he continued. “When you look at some of the numbers in Irvington, we have increased in two days with 10 additional cases. We went up from 1,962 to 1,972. What’s so important there is we had 165 people in total die in Irvington due to COVID-19.”

Vauss mentioned a testing site within the township.

“I want everyone to do basic things and get tested,” Vauss said. “Here in Irvington, we have a testing site at 1253 Clinton Ave., which is Irvington High School, every Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. We want people to get tested because you want to keep your loved ones safe. For more information call, 973-399-6670 or go to Irvington.net to get all the information as to where you can get tested. It’s so important that we stay together, we work together, and we do all the things that we need to do.”

Additionally, the four mayors are eyeing a stay-at-home order. 

“I think those couple of days after Thanksgiving, we should have a stay-at-home order in place,” Baraka suggested. “If the numbers keep growing, the day of Thanksgiving, maybe five to six days after that, people should stay in the house unless they absolutely need to go out. We really need to put that in place, and we need the governor to support that.”

In fact, just four days after this Facebook Live event, Baraka took to Facebook Live again and announced that he was instituting a 10-day stay-at-home order in his city to start after Thanksgiving. During this time, Baraka said everything should close down and people should get tested for COVID-19.

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