Irvington mayor takes aggressive approach in response to superspreader holiday

Photo Courtesy of Tony Vauss
Pastor Jerry Smith and Mayor Tony Vauss assist at a recent Thanksgiving turkey giveaway and urge community members to practice COVID-19 safety measures and wear masks in public.

IRVINGTON, NJ — With Thanksgiving came anxiety. Despite New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy urging residents to spend the holiday with only immediate family members this year, there was still the possibility there would be plenty of larger family gatherings. Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss has taken an aggressive approach to mitigating the expected surge in COVID-19 cases after what could very well have been a superspreader holiday.

In compliance with Murphy’s Executive Order No. 195, Vauss has called for all nonessential employees of the township of Irvington, the Irvington Public Schools and the Irvington Housing Authority to work from home for 14 days following the Thanksgiving holiday and weekend, from Nov. 30 until Dec. 14.

“After meeting with health officials as the pandemic rages on, we felt that there will be an even bigger spike after the Thanksgiving holiday,” Vauss said Nov. 26. “With people visiting family members and going out of state, it was important for us to get ahead of this Thanksgiving holiday season.”

In step with Murphy’s executive orders, which permit municipalities and counties to impose limited additional restrictions on the hours of operation of nonessential retail businesses, food and beverage establishments, and recreation and entertainment business after 8 p.m., Vauss’ objective is to provide for the overall safety and wellness of the township as a whole.

“The governor has been working tirelessly with us to help combat COVID-19,” Vauss said. “This falls in line with the governor’s executive orders.”

In addition, Vauss is calling for all companies and industries within the township that can allow their employees to work from home to do so to limit their contact with the public. All township, public school and housing authority employees will be required to be tested and receive a negative result prior to returning to work, with increased testing availability to the public inside City Hall and at Irvington High School.

Different from a stay-at-home order, Vauss has proposed a work-from-home recommendation.

“As we are definitely advising people to stay home and go out only if they need to, this is not a stay-at-home order,” Vauss said. “It is more or less a work-from-home recommendation, if possible, for the entire township of Irvington.

“The thought behind this was that after the holiday season, you would have so many people congregating in homes, visiting family members, and once everyone came back to work within the township of Irvington from a multitude of agencies that it will definitely increase the risk of spreading COVID-19,” he continued. “That’s why we are requesting members of the community and the employees to stay home for 14 days, which would allow employees of the township enough time to quarantine. And they must get tested before returning back to work.”

Vauss is also calling for all township businesses to participate to help stop the spread by requiring masks in order to be served or enter the establishment, and to make sure everyone is practicing social distancing by standing 6 feet apart from one another. Irvington law enforcement officers have been enforcing Murphy’s executive orders on these matters since before the holiday and will continue to do so.

According to Vauss, the work-from-home recommendation will not have a negative impact on the township.

“Without this recommendation, the negative impact would be hundreds of people spreading COVID-19 to thousands of other people. That would be the negative impact for us,” Vauss said.

Though Irvington has banded together with Newark, East Orange and Orange to combat this serious threat, the neighboring areas each have their own plans.

“Each city or township has its own specific issues (when) dealing with COVID-19,” Vauss said. “There are similar plans throughout the other municipalities, some stronger than others.”

Vauss has faith that the other mayors in the Garden State are doing what is necessary to help curb the pandemic.

“I’m sure that the mayors and the leaders of those communities have specific challenges that they are working through,” Vauss said. “The entire state is under the governor’s executive orders, so I’m sure they have their own COVID-19 protocols in place to keep their residents safe.”