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Baraka Announces New Restrictions As COVID Cases Soar in NJ's Largest City

Alexandra Hill


Newark Mayor Ras Baraka is sounding the alarm as cases in the city rise to levels not seen since the height of the pandemic back in April. Baraka is now defending his decision to implement even stricter COVID restrictions across New Jersey’s largest city.

Baraka says all non-essential businesses in Newark must now close at 8pm two hours earlier than the state’s 10pm shut down order. Baraka says he has received push back from business owners to elected officials but says for him its about saving lives.

“It’s about health and data that’s it, that’s the only reason that you should be making a decision. The decision should be about data. If the data is telling you that people are catching this virus at a rapid rate and that the deaths are slowly increasing, then you have to do something, and if what you do doesn’t work then you have to do more.”

Baraka says he understand the economic impact of the restrictions, citing he city’s double digit unemployment rate brought on by the pandemic, but Baraka says everyone must make sacrifices to make the virus go away, adding that he will implement a complete shut down if necessary.

“Its reminiscent of what we did in March and April, I was the mean father and the bad guy in April, I was getting emails and texts about how horrible and draconian these measures were. In June and July people were sending me roses, because while the rest of the country was struggling with COVID Newark had went from a 68% positivity rate to below 2%.”

Newark’s positivity rate is now at 19%, and 35% in the city’s eastward, home to one of the city’s liveliest bar and restaurant scenes. Baraka says business and economic considerations becomes more important, when officials are chasing the next election.

“If I don’t get elected tomorrow because of what we do in Newark, then I don’t care, and that’s really how I feel about it. At this point in this thing, you now, my family lives here, my friends live here, and six police officers have died. One of my best friends and his wife went back and forth to the hospital to get oxygen because they had COVID, scared everybody half to death, we thought we’d lost them. And then you want to argue with me about whether your business should stay open two additional hours. We close you down at 8pm and you’re mad because we close you down two hours before the Governor at 10pm, I think it’s selfish.”

Additional restrictions for zip codes 07104, 07105, and 07107, include a mandatory 9 p.m. curfew on weekdays, and a 10 p.m. curfew on weekends, a mandatory mask mandate, and gatherings are limited to no more than ten people. In addition all sports activities citywide have been cancelled for a two-week period, and religious services are restricted to a 25% capacity. Sine the pandemic began Newark has seen more than 13,000 cases and has a death toll of 680. 

Alexandra Hill began her work with WBGO in June of 2012 in the news department. A graduate of the Rutgers Newark journalism program, Alexandra was also a student of WBGO News Director Doug Doyle. Alexandra has since become the lead general assignment reporter, afternoon news anchor, and producer of the award winning live call in show Newark Today. Since working for WBGO Alexandra has covered politics in and around Newark including the 2014 mayoral campaign of Mayor Ras Baraka as well as the senate campaigns of former Newark Mayor and now U.S. Senator Cory Booker in both 2013 and 2014. Alexandra also covers a host of human-interest stories, and has been recognized by the New York Association Of Black Journalists for her piece entitled Sheltering Newark’s Homeless.