Montclair is on alert for the coronavirus COVID-19, and is helping residents who have recently returned from China monitor their health, said health department officials. New Jersey officials announced what they believe to be its first case of COVID-19 on Tuesday, March 3. The 32-year-old Fort Lee man is in isolation at Hackensack University Hospital, according to  reports.

While travelers from China are checked at the airport for symptoms, the New Jersey Department of Health notifies local health departments, such as Montclair, of any area travelers returning from mainland China. Those travelers are then further monitored locally for 14 days.

Last week, “several” residents who had returned from China were being “passively” monitored in Montclair, taking temperatures once a day, and checking in daily with the health department even though they only needed to check in on days one, seven and 14, said Sue Portuese, Director of the Montclair Dept. of Health and Human Services.

“[Last Thursday, Feb. 26, was] the last day of monitoring for those travelers. They show no signs of symptoms,” she said. None of the residents had been directly exposed to the virus, Portuese added.

Over the weekend, Iran, Italy and South Korea were added to the list of countries on a Level 3 travel notice from the CDC, which recommends avoiding all nonessential travel to those areas. Japan is on a Level 2 alert; the CDC recommends taking increased precautions when traveling there, such as avoiding sick people and consistent hand washing. Japan closed all its schools last Friday.

Thus far, COVID-19 monitoring has not been expanded to people returning from the other countries, said Portuese.

The COVID-19 coronavirus is behind the outbreak of respiratory illness that began in China, and has now expanded to numerous countries globally. Illness has ranged from mild to severe. Signs and symptoms of infection include fever, cough and difficulty breathing. Sore throat also has been reported in some patients. Some patients also have reported diarrhea without other symptoms. This new coronavirus has caused severe disease and death in patients who developed pneumonia. Risk factors for severe illness are not yet clear, although older adults and those with chronic medical conditions may be at higher risk for severe illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control.


The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person — between people who are in close contact with one another and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.


Fourteen states — New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Florida, Wisconsin, Illinois, Arizona, California, North Carolina, Georgia, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington state — have reported cases. In the U.S., 120 cases have been reported with 11 deaths. 

“Although this novel virus is understandably a cause for concern, it is important for New Jersey residents to know that the risk to the general public still remains low,” said New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “We are working closely with the CDC and our public health and healthcare partners to ensure our preparedness levels for this novel virus remain high.”

She said New Jersey hospitals have 700 rooms available for isolating patients.

As of Monday, Montclair was not reporting any new travelers who were being monitored. School officials, the mayor and health department officials are expected to meet next week to discuss plans. 


For now, school officials here are asking that students who are ill with respiratory symptoms, flu-like illness, or diarrhea and vomiting to be kept home for 24 hours after being fever-free without fever-reducing medication, and/or 24 hours free of diarrhea/vomiting. Students with a fever of 100-plus degrees should not be in school — the same protocol placed when a student becomes sick with any illness.

The New Jersey Department of Health does not recommend school closure for outbreaks of infectious disease. Schools would only be closed if control measures are inadequate, schools are unable to function due to increased illness/absence of staff members, or if the NJDOH declares an epidemic.

The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from any respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Face masks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of face masks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings, at home or in a healthcare facility.

The Archdiocese of Newark is asking that priests, deacons and ministers of Communion take precautions. The distribution of wine has been suspended and the practice of Communion on the tongue does not have to be offered. The sign of peace should be exchanged without physical contact.

At Mountainside Medical Center, medical professionals screen patients, especially at this time of year, for any communicable disease, such as the flu, said marketing director Chiara Marababol. 

“We ask that any patient seeking care in our clinics and hospitals don a mask if they have symptoms of fever, cough or trouble breathing,” Marababol said.

The state is asking patients with Coronavirus symptoms  and plan to visit a physician’s office, urgent care or hospital, to call ahead so they can prepare for your visit.

Patients with symptoms are asked if they have recently traveled to China or had close contact with a person under investigation for COVID-19, said hospital officials.  

Some clinics are looking to expand the telehealth capabilities to enable remote diagnosis of cases to keep patients from possibly spreading a virus. 


“Avoid contact with those who are sick, and stay home if you are sick. Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds,” said Marababol.

Although hand washing for at least 20 seconds is the best method to avoid spreading germs, alcohol wipes to wipe down surfaces and the use of hand sanitizer are also recommended. Can't find hand sanitizer? Here's an easy recipe:

  • 2/3 cup Isopropyl rubbing alcohol 91%
  • 1/3 cup aloe vera gel

Mix in a bowl, then fill travel containers.

CDC officials are giving the same guidelines it does for all illnesses:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick,
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue then throw the tissue in the trash,
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth,
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces,
  • Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care and,
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.