Hackensack government went on alert after an elected official was accused of escorting a relative he knew had tested positive for the coronavirus into City Hall even though the building had been closed to the public.
The alleged Dec. 29 incident involving Deputy Mayor David Sims raised concerns over infection, although no one who was at City Hall has reported contracting COVID-19 since then.
Although the person with Sims wasn’t publicly identified, various city sources said it was a female family member who doesn’t live with him who needed a document notarized.
She apparently interacted with a city worker who Chris Marx, the city spokesman, said was sent home to quarantine for two weeks and subsequently tested negative.
Sims to this point hasn’t commented.
He posted “Merry Christmas” wishes late last year as part of a Facebook thread in which he said that his mother, daughter and son-in-law all tested positive for COVID-19 while other family members tested negative.
In response to the incident, City Manager Ted Ehrenberg has limited access to City Hall and other municipal buildings to city employees, except with "advance permission” from his office, until further notice.
“Moreover, members of the City Council will not be permitted access to any [c]ity building until further notice,” Ehrenberg wrote in an internal memo to department heads and city employees.
City officials are “taking all of the necessary steps to ensure everyone potentially affected will be tested, that the building is cleaned in accordance with recommended guidelines and that [c]ity operations can continue remotely when required,” the city manager wrote.
Ehrenberg apologized on behalf of himself, Mayor John Labrosse and the City Council.
“We don’t know why [Sims] did it,” Labrosse said during a council Zoom meeting last week. “That’s for him to explain.”
Although he called it an “unfortunate incident,” the mayor also said that he and council members “certainly did not condone Deputy Mayor Sims’s actions.”
The situation is particularly sensitive in Hackensack, the Bergen County seat, where 134 deaths have been reported -- including that of Deputy Mayor Kathleen Canestrino's husband -- since the pandemic emerged here nearly 10 months ago.
The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office has been asked to investigate the possibility of endangerment charges, city sources said.
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