“I firmly believe that we shouldn’t make decisions on “opening” based on polling. It should be based on science but also respect that people can make personal smart choices,” Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop told CNN in an interview earlier this week. “If someone doesn’t feel comfortable with parks or a business, than they should make a personal choice not to go to the park or business.”

With those words, the Jersey City mayor said his city has made plans to slowly reopen, something that has not been discussed by other cities and counties in the New Jersey, which has the second highest total infections and coronavirus related deaths in the country.

“We need to slowly move forward,” Fulop added. “We don’t live in a perfect or risk free world for anything so we shouldn’t pretend that it will be for this. We’re all better off managing risk as opposed to pretending it doesn’t exist.

Jersey City, with a population of about 250,000, is the largest town in Hudson County. It is planning to ramp up testing this week, loosening restrictions so that any resident who requests one can get it, even those showing no symptoms. The expansion will eventually include antibody testing.

On Monday, May 4, Jersey City began testing anyone who lives in the city whether they have symptoms or none. The city is one of the first cities in the country to do this. On its first day of testing, the city did 747 tests, compared with the previous daily average of 250 tests for those with symptoms.

Antibody testing for residents is also set to begin this week, making the city the first in the state to provide this service. First up will be the city’s front line workers and after that, any resident can call and schedule an appointment. Appointments are necessary and residents are advised to call (201) 547-5535 to schedule an appointment for this antibody test.

Fulop believes that initiatives such as these are needed to help get the city functioning again since more testing is essential to moving the local economy forward.

Next week, the city will also start opening nine Farmer’s Markets throughout the city in an effort to help the local economy.

“We’ll take precautions, there will be more space between vendors, masks will be required and rules will be in place, but we have to trust residents to make good decisions,” Fulop said earlier.

The city will offer tools to manage costs, provide sanitation stations and provide food for people in need at the end of the market day, which will help both farmers and struggling families.

In an email, Fulop shared his optimism in taking careful “baby steps” forward.

He reported that there are 5,518 COVID-19 cases in Jersey City and 285 fatalities but the positive signs of progress are starting to show as COVID-19 patients at Jersey City Medical Center are down 48% from the peak and Carepoint has had a 30% decline in their COVID patient count.

“While the fight is not over and you should not be relaxed in social distancing, we must slowly shift our conversation towards a gradual return to the new normal,” he said. “Again, this is a slow path forward but nonetheless, we are moving forward.”

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