Baraka unveils ‘Phase One’ of reopening Newark

NEWARK, NJ — Newark Mayor Ras Baraka presented the first phase of the plan to reopen New Jersey’s largest city beginning June 1 during a press conference at NJPAC on May 21. The mayor called the phase “preparation” to look at how the city might eventually reopen.

“Phase One is about us getting prepared to open. We’re advancing, but it also gives us room to retreat if the numbers go back up,” Baraka said. “Our top priority is the health and safety of our residents.”

The mayor’s decision is based on data that shows a continued decline in COVID-19 cases and from the recommendations of the “Newark Reopening and Recovery Strikeforce.” The data collected shows that, while Newark has increased testing 100 percent, the percentage of people who have tested positive has dropped dramatically, as have reported cases and deaths.

As part of Phase One, the city will institute a color-coded system to “give people information they need to have to make informed choices about the risks,” Baraka said.

Businesses, restaurants, parks and other public places will display color-coded signage, with red being the highest risk area, yellow more moderate and green the lowest risk area.

The mayor gave the example of basketball courts probably being coded red because of the crowds and the nature of the game, which does not favor social distancing.

“We want people to know if you go to these places, you run a high risk of getting sick,” he said.

Other Phase One components include:

  • Recreation centers, parks and playgrounds will remain closed; block parties and special events will remain on hold. All faith-based services can be held via teleconference or virtually. 
  • Information centers will be established in each ward and the 4311 non-emergency call center will be expanded to include a dedicated COVID-19 information hotline. Additionally, a technology task force will be created to develop a sustainable citywide strategy for universal access to Wi-Fi and the hardware necessary for remote learning.
  • An isolation and quarantine plan will be developed for those who cannot create one themselves. Guidance will be provided around emotional hurdles and fears related to medical mistrust.
  • Letters will be sent to all businesses requesting plans to ensure the safety of their employees and the general public. City licensing, approvals and permitting processes will be adjusted to streamline what can be expedited and waived.

The Newark Recovery and Reopening Strikeforce, led by Chief of Staff Amiri Baraka Jr. and Newark Alliance CEO Aisha Glover, will continue to work collaboratively while other phases are rolled out as well. The committees within the strikeforce are: public health; economic recovery; data collection and analysis; education; faith-based organizations; arts, recreation and culture; community outreach and engagement; and communications.