HAZLETON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Absolute lockdown. That’s what it’s come to for a coronavirus hotspot in our region to fight skyrocketing positive cases of COVID-19.
Mayor Jeff Cusat is really laying down the law here. Something as simple as walking out and about could land you thousands in fines and up to 90 days in jail. After the report came out from Lehigh Valley Health Network that less than two out of every 10 people in the Hazleton area are adhering to social distancing guidelines, extreme measures are now in place.
“That little slip of paper from your boss isn’t going to cut it here,” Cusat said.
Cusat has seen the numbers of positive coronavirus cases explode in the Hazleton area and as of 8 p.m. Saturday, Hazleton is on complete lockdown.
“If someone is going to work at the hospital or another medical facility, obviously, that’s okay. If someone is out joyriding with their friends or trying to go get a pizza somewhere, going to get a pack of cigarettes or a six-pack, that’s not okay. We will enforce and to the fullest extent of the law,” Cusat said.
Cusat says a lack of adhering to social distancing practices has forced his hand and after working with his solicitor, is ready to shut the city down for at least five days. With no grace period and authorities from the municipal, county, and state levels on board, there’s even a possibility that Hazleton and Luzerne County could call in the cavalry.
“We need to make sure that they have necessary resources to do their jobs. How do we help them? By making sure we social distance. If it comes to the National Guard to be here to assist, we’ll make sure that’s the case,” Luzerne County Manager David Pedri said.
With trying times prompting a more aggressive approach to combating this epidemic, the city council and even state are making sure that the message is getting heard, especially with a large Spanish speaking population in the Mountain City.
“A lot of people do get their news from social media so we’re trying to hit them where they know it,” Pedri said.
“Everything I do gets translated into Spanish. It is on our Facebook and I’ve reached out to the Spanish newspapers and radio stations,” Cusat said.
But no matter what your background is, the message is chillingly clear at this point. The fight against COVID-19 is real, it’s here and it’s hit the next level.
“We can’t let it get more out of control so we have to take an aggressive stance now and fight it from within,” Cusat said.
West Hazleton and Hazle Township have also implemented immediate curfews to help fight this pandemic across the 100-square-mile greater Hazleton area. The National Guard would be a last resort for manpower and that’s if Governor Wolf deems it necessary to fight these startling numbers.
The response is certainly fitting the need as the Hazleton area’s positive cases have been doubling roughly every other day. The mayor says more than 400 cases are positive in the Mountain City.
According to a press release, the following restrictions become effective beginning at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 4th 2020 in the city of Hazleton:
- Enacts a curfew between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., prohibiting individuals from being on public street including driving on city-owned streets or any other public place during that time.
- Prohibits any gatherings of more than four individuals (not immediate family members) in public places at any time during the day.
- Prohibits vehicles parked or stopped within City of Hazleton limits with four or more individuals (not immediate family members).
- All non-essential businesses as defined by Governor Wolf must close immediately.
- All individuals must stay at least six feet away from others (non-family members) when outside of your home.
- These provisions will be enforced and summary offenses will be issued when they are violated.