Two men in hazmat suits began spraying a disinfecting solution on store door handles, parking meters, and benches in South Paterson on Wednesday morning.
It’s part of an effort by the Palestinian American Community Center and councilman Al Abdelaziz to clean up and disinfect all touchable surfaces on Main Street from Crooks to Madison Avenue ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from dawn until dusk.
“We feel it’s one of the least things we could do,” said Diab Mustafa of the Palestinian American Community Center (PACC) which has an office on Lakeview Avenue and was founded in 2014. “In these times, everybody needs to step up their game and give back. We believe very strongly in giving back to the community.”
Mustafa is giving out signs to businesses to ensure customers come in with masks and gloves. “Stop! Covid-19. No mask. No service,” reads one sign. “Stop! Covid-19. No mask. No gloves. No service,” reads another.
Stores and restaurants have started to display the signs at their entrances.
Mustafa’s group is giving surgical masks to stores to give to their customers, who try to come in without masks and gloves. Those customers will need to don masks and gloves before entering the businesses.
“It’s also an education piece, getting the word out to businesses and people that are out there,” said Abdelaziz. “The key thing here is to educate.”
Mustafa said a large banner will be unfurled overhead at the Crooks-Main intersection thanking people for wearing masks and wishing them Ramadan Mubarak — blessed or happy Ramadan.
The timing of the disinfecting and education campaign coincides with the Muslim fasting month which starts this week. Paterson has one of the largest Muslim populations in the U.S. Restaurants and bakeries in South Paterson see a big increase in customers just before it’s time to break fast at sunset.
“This is usually their busy season,” said Abdelaziz of businesses in South Paterson. “The businesses have assured me they’ll be practicing social distancing.”
“We know it’s hard this year,” said Mustafa. “Mosques are closed.”
The heavily attended nightly congregational prayers at mosques across the city have been cancelled because of the new coronavirus pandemic.
Abdelaziz said the annual lantern lighting, called the Fanoos, will take place, but without fanfare. Over the past years, hundreds of people typically attended the lantern lighting.
“It’s going to be lit, but there’s not going to be a ceremony,” said Abdelaziz. “We’re not going to let this virus dampen our religious spirits.”
Abdelaziz, who represents the 6th Ward, where South Paterson is located, said he is planning something similar for the business corridor in the People’s Park section.
The crew of 16 people began disinfecting and picking up trash from the streets at the corner of Main and Crooks and will continue to Madison Avenue, said Mustafa.
Wassim Kanaan, who volunteered for the effort, said the community is doing its part by cleaning and disinfecting the business corridor.
“There’s little bit of a fear,” said Kanaan. “We have to be careful and we have to be a conscious.”
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