Next week the state is expected to begin using the saliva-based tests of all staff and residents at New Jersey’s five developmental residences for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, in the first step towards eventually expanding the use of the tests to the entire population, a requirement before the state economy can re-open. 

The saliva test, developed by Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS), requires only spitting in a cup to collect samples, and is far less invasive than the nose swab test. The test also has a 100 percent accuracy rate, compared to a 70 percent rate for the nose swab test, officials said. 

“Rutgers RUCDR’s new saliva-based test is a game changer in terms of expanding testing nationwide and we’re awaiting FDA approval of the test for self-collection at home, which will only further increase the number of screenings,” said RBHS Chancellor Brian Strom. “RUCDR’s research exemplifies the tremendous efforts of Rutgers health care professionals at all levels, from the lab to the frontlines of patient care.”

The state is expected to be using 10,000 saliva tests a day within a week or two, said Gov. Phil Murphy Thursday.

“As we work to expand testing across the state, we will be prioritizing the most vulnerable populations like those who reside in these centers,” said New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith M. Persichilli.

On Thursday, April 23, another 4,247 residents were announced to have tested positive for COVID-19, up from the 3,551 new cases reported yesterday. Today, another 307 deaths due to complications with the virus were reported, slightly down from the 314 reported yesterday. The state has now reported 99,989 positive cases, with a total of 5,368 deaths to date. 

Essex County reported this morning an increase of 482 COVID-19 caes, with the county now recording 11,787 cases. Forty-seven new deaths were reported, bringing the death toll to 928 in Essex County.

Today, the number of COVID-19 cases in Montclair increased from yesterday's count of 314 to 325. The number of individuals who did not survive the illness increased from 34 to 35, according to local officials.

Hospitalizations remained relatively flat at 7,240. The number of patients in critical care is 1,990, and the number of ventilators in use is the lowest since April 5 at 1,462. The number of patients being admitted to hospitals was 752, the same number as those who were discharged last night. 

As patients with underlying conditions such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure are at greater risk when contracting the virus, Persichilli urged those residents to get tested with any symptoms related to the virus.

Murphy also discussed the $1.8 billion the state received through the Federal CARES Act, which places limitations on how the money can be spent. According to guidance from the federal government, the money can’t be used for anything budgeted for last year. It can be used to cover expenses due to COVID-19, but not to cover shortfalls. For instance, the funds can’t be directed to education, but officials argued students are now being taught online and lunches need to be delivered. Without opening up where the funds can be directed, Murphy said much would have to be returned.

State officials said the number of COVID positives is expected to climb past 100,000 tomorrow. The first New Jersey positive case was recorded on March 4. The number of COVID-19 patients who have exited the two-week incubation period is now at 46,000, said Murphy.