COVID-19: Hundreds tested at NJ’s first testing site, state to increase social distancing
(Edwin J. Torres for Governor’s Office).
BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
As the number of COVID-19 cases continue to climb in New Jersey, increasing by 155 with two more deaths from Thursday to Friday, the state is now better equipped to test patients with the opening of the state's first drive-up testing site in Bergen County. Another will open in Holmdel, in Monmouth County, on Monday. There are now two labs to run tests, Labcorp and Bioreference. The state can run and test up 2,500 tests a week, with results back in about four days.
Although the FEMA-run Bergen Community College testing site didn’t open until 8 a.m. Friday, vehicles began lining up before dawn, with passengers waiting to be tested. By 2 p.m., 600 swabs were taken from residents who showed up wanting to be tested because they were showing some signs of respiratory illness. Many were turned away when there was no more room to store the samples, officials said.
The facility will open up again Saturday at 8 a.m. and will be open 7 days a week, officials said. Going forward the one in Bergen is expected to do 350 tests per day for now. In addition to the one in Holmdel, state officials said they expect a handful to open up throughout the state, including in Essex, within a week.
In total, New Jersey has reported 890 positive cases of COVID-19, resulting in 11 deaths. Essex County reported eight new cases Friday, increasing the county’s total to 73. One new death was reported in Essex County and another in Bergen County. Of the 11 deaths overall in New Jersey, all had medical problems, most notably cardiovascular disease or diabetes, said New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.
The Montclair Department of Health and Human Services reported that no cases were reported in Montclair today, with the current number of positive COVID-19 still cases at five, two of whom have died.
With the increased testing capabilities and availability, the numbers will start to rise, said Persichilli.
“It is extremely important that only New Jersey residents with fever or signs or symptoms of respiratory illness visit the testing location,” said Persichilli. “We must reserve our testing capacity for those who are sick and may risk exposure to others.”
In order to be eligible for testing, individuals must be current New Jersey residents and experiencing symptoms of respiratory illness. Priority will be given to symptomatic individuals experiencing cough, fever (99.6F or above) and shortness of breath and seniors. Individuals who are not symptomatic will not be tested, as it diverts critical resources such as testing kits and laboratory materials from those who are ill.
Testing is free and will be covered by the federal government or personal insurance company. Individuals should bring insurance cards and identification.
The collections will be transmitted to the contracted laboratory twice per day and results will be reported within three to four business days.
Persichilli also announced the closing of all adult daycare centers. Of the 11 deaths, three were from long-term care facilities, including one in Montclair. But, she warned after the death of a 37-year-old man was reported today, officials are now realizing that younger people may be more affected than they had hoped, said Persichilli.
Gov. Phil Murphy said that tomorrow he will announce more social distancing measures “to tighten the screw.” He hinted at closing all nonessential businesses - which businesses fall in that category have not been defined yet - and to limit gatherings to 10 or ban them altogether.
As more residents test positive, up into the “thousands,” the state hopes to have medical facilities opened in Woodbury, Plainfield, and reopening seven or eight closed hospital wings to provide more beds when the surge hits “three to four weeks” from now, said Persichilli.