1st presumptive case of coronavirus in N.J. announced Wednesday night

New Jersey officials announced the first presumptive positive case of novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, in the state on Wednesday night.

The ill person, a male in his 30s, has been hospitalized in Bergen County since Tuesday.

According to officials in a release, the presumptive positive result came from a sample tested by the New Jersey Department of Health at the New Jersey Public Health Environmental Laboratories and is now being submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmatory testing.

State and local public health authorities are proceeding with the public health investigation and response activities as if this were a confirmed case, the release said. The hospital is working closely with the Department of Health and is following all infectious disease protocols, the release said.

In addition, the Department of Health is tracing close contacts of this individual and is taking appropriate public health actions, the release said. State officials said the investigation is underway and more information will be released when it becomes available.

The release came from Gov. Phil Murphy, acting Gov. Sheila Oliver and Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. It came about an hour after first lady Tammy Murphy said her husband was in good spirits following surgery to remove a tumor on his kidney Wednesday in New York City.

Persichilli said New Jersey residents should not overreact to the news.

“Any case of novel coronavirus in our state is concerning; however, most New Jersey residents are at very low risk of contracting COVID-19,” she said. “The department is working closely with the CDC and local health officials to respond to this case and is monitoring the evolving situation across the nation.”

In the release, Murphy also asked residents to remain calm and said New Jersey officials are working diligently.

“My administration is working aggressively to keep residents safe and contain the spread of COVID-19 in New Jersey,” he said. “We take this situation very seriously and have been preparing for this for weeks. I urge residents to remain calm and use resources from the New Jersey Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control to prepare and prevent the spread of infection. Safeguarding the public’s health is one of my highest priorities and my administration is prepared to respond swiftly to any additional positive cases of COVID-19 here in New Jersey.”

The release said the New Jersey Department of Health has been working to prepare for and respond to the evolving novel coronavirus since early January.

The department shared state and CDC guidance with hospitals, local health officials, K-12 schools, universities and businesses; established a novel coronavirus webpage; partnered with the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System to open a call center (800-222-1222) for the public; hosted stakeholder teleconferences; and continues coordinating state efforts weekly with the New Jersey Coronavirus Task Force chaired by Persichilli.

To date, the 24/7 NJPIES hotline has received more than 1,195 calls from the public and can accommodate callers in multiple languages. 

Said Oliver: “Our administration has been coordinating across all levels of government, and with our federal partners, to ensure that we are active and engaged with preparedness and response plan. We urge all New Jersey residents to follow guidance from the New Jersey Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control to help contain the spread of COVID-19.”

U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-5th Dist.) released the following statement, noting the House passed legislation Wednesday to help address coronavirus.

“I am monitoring this presumptive positive case of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Bergen County, and I continue to be in close contact with hospital officials and local and state leaders on the matter,” he said. “I’m continuing to work with North Jersey hospitals, health facilities and communities, and I’ve offered support of whatever they need to treat patients afflicted with this virus and to help make sure this outbreak is contained.

“Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed bipartisan emergency legislation to immediately address the coronavirus outbreak and help keep North Jersey families safe. This bill provides emergency funding for a robust response to the crisis, including support for state and local health agencies, and vaccine and treatment development. The Senate is expected to vote on this legislation in coming days.”