Newark police and ambassadors urge mask wearing

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

Ambassadors of the Newark Police Division, members of Newark Police, and the division’s clergy and citizen outreach came to spread the word about wearing masks.

Sometimes responses from residents can be less than desirable, so members pray about it and move on to someone receptive to the message. One man says he and his wife recovered from COVID-19 and know to social distance and cover their faces.

“It’s the times we’re living in right now,” said Jihaad North. “Me and my children, my family we do it [wear masks]. Every day. I don’t leave, he don’t leave out the house without it.”

Last week, Gov. Phil Murphy issued Executive Order 163 that requiring face coverings outdoors where people can’t practice social distancing. Exceptions to the order include children younger than 2 years old, those who it could endanger their health and dining outdoors.

“Requiring face masks outdoors is a step, frankly, that I had hoped we wouldn’t have to take. […] But unfortunately we have been seeing a backslide in compliance as the weather has gotten warmer, and not surprisingly as a result our rate of transmission has similarly crept up,” Murphy said during his coronavirus press briefing on July 8.

In an email, the state Attorney General’s Office said, “Local enforcement agencies retain discretion to enforce these policies.” But, as this Newark Police Division team set out this week, Newark Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose says the state Attorney General’s Office relayed that the governor did not warnings or summonses issued for non-compliance. Ambrose told NJTV News that’s “absurd” and “ridiculous” and “you can quote me on that.”

Murphy’s replied Wednesday saying, “I’m not aware of the comment about the attorney general saying don’t warn and don’t summons. […] What is a priority, and we have asked explicitly — not just the State Police, but the park police, and local authorities and county sheriffs — we expect folks to be warned and action to be taken if there is intense congregation where folks are not social distancing.”

For months, Newark has given away masks. It’s now running an education and social media campaign called #MaskUpNewark. It’s in Spanish, Portuguese and English. It couples that with street-level reminders.

“Just make sure that you mask up when there’s two to three people. We’re trying to make sure that no one takes it home,” said Chermica Gardner, a 911 dispatcher in Newark.

“We want the public to know that the virus is not over, not by far. We haven’t beaten this. We do not want to go backwards, and we certainly don’t want to put ourselves in a situation that we have to tighten up certain restrictions. As we understand, it’s bad for business and we certainly want to continue to go forward. So, it’s very, very important,” said Newark Police Division Department Chief Jose Gonzalez.

It’s important in a state that’s now seeing a retreat in the progress that was made in combatting the deadly disease.