N.J. to get 1st widespread coronavirus testing center, at community college in hardest-hit county
New Jersey’s first “widespread” coronavirus testing center is set to open soon in Bergen County, the section of the state hit hardest by the outbreak, state officials announced Saturday.
Officials also said they are working to expand testing throughout the Garden State.
The new center will be located at Bergen County Community College in Paramus, state Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said during a telephone briefing with reporters.
The state has been working with officials in Bergen, New Jersey’s most populous county, on the center, which is set to open by Monday, Persichilli said.
Bergen announced Saturday that 31 of its residents have tested positive for coronavirus — by far the most cases in the state.
New Jersey officials said there are at least 69 confirmed coronavirus cases statewide, though that does not include six additional Bergen cases announced immediately after state officials updated the number, raising the statewide total to 75.
The county has also seen the only coronavirus-related death in the state, a 69-year-old man.
“It makes completely logical sense that if we’re taking a first step on specimen collection, Bergen County would be the place to do it,” Gov. Phil Murphy said on Saturday’s call.
The Bergen site will be only for collecting specimens. The actual test analysis will be done elsewhere, officials said.
Persichilli said only people showing symptoms of the virus — which causes the illness COVID-19 — will be tested.
“If you do not have symptoms, you do not need to be tested,” she added.
The virus has three main symptoms: fever, cough, and shortness of breath. They usually develop 2-14 days after exposure, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.
Official state testing so far has been done at New Jersey’s Public Health and Environmental Laboratories in West Trenton. There is also testing done by two of the state’s hospitals and through private lab facilities.
But Murphy said New Jerseyans should expect to see more places to submit a specimen and “an expansion of our ability to process those tests” in the coming weeks.
State officials did not have more details about the Bergen center as of Saturday afternoon — such as how many people it could test a day and whether it will be a drive-through collection site.
Bergen County Executive James Tedesco is expected to release more details about the setup later Saturday.
“He’s got some type of tenting option that he’s looking at,” Persichilli said.
Tedesco on Friday ordered the shutdown of movie theaters, public theaters, dance studios, the county zoo, and all public gatherings of 250 people or more in Bergen. The county also closed all 75 of its school districts.
The availability of coronavirus testing has been an issue across the U.S., with the country struggling to match testing levels seen in other nations.
At the state level, New Jersey’s lab has the resources only to test 400 people, Persichilli said earlier this week, although the state is in the process of acquiring more tests.
Meanwhile, private companies like LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics have begun handling their own tests. Hackensack Meridian Health announced Thursday it will utilize new rapid-response coronavirus tests. And Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick began testing on Thursday, Persichelli said.
Persichilli said it’s difficult to know how many tests are pending in New Jersey, though she did say there are 26 specimens to be tested Saturday at the state lab.
“I have absolutely no idea what is pending at the commercial or hospital labs,” she added.
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