N.J. close to first drive-up testing facility, Murphy and Persichilli say

Coming to Bergen County, but when, how and for whom is still unknown

By Tom Bergeron
Trenton | Mar 14, 2020 at 5:16 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy and state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli both said the state is close to announcing a drive-up testing facility in Bergen County, potentially at Bergen Community College. Few other details were available.

Murphy and Persichilli, speaking at the state’s daily briefing call, reiterated that this is a top priority.

“I’m pleased to announce that we’re working with (Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco) to start a widespread testing center at Bergen Community College,” Persichilli said. “Additionally, we’re working with the New Jersey Hospital Association and the hospital and medical community to increase testing options throughout the state.”

Murphy said it was the first of what the state anticipates will be many different avenues to collect specimens and expand testing.

But he cautioned that the Bergen site is far from ready. And he said Tedesco is taking the lead.

“This plan is a work in progress,” he said. “It’s a work in progress that will not last more than a couple of days, but the exact details of this are still under consideration and deliberation.”

Rules of potential vetting of who can go to the site — whether it be based on where you live or what symptoms you have — were unclear.

Persichilli said she hoped participants would need a note from a physician.

“Our hope is that it would be on the order of a physician so that, if individuals come up positive, we’re assured they are being treated symptomatically by their physician,” she said.

Persichilli also announced the latest number of confirmed cases, 19, bringing the state total to 69. She acknowledged the number is growing due to the increase of tests being run.

As for Saturday, she broke it down as follows: 19 new cases (13 female, six male), ages 18-80. From Bergen (seven), Middlesex (seven), Essex (two), Hudson (two) and Monmouth (one) counties.

She also said the state will now consider all cases as confirmed. There no longer will be an effort to get that designation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; therefore, the state no longer will use the term “presumptive.”

Persichilli cautioned residents against putting too much stake in the numbers — especially where the cases are.

“We expect numbers to increase,” she said. “We expect them to increase from North Jersey to South Jersey. And we expect that everyone will take the precautions necessary that we have discussed and shared.

“Everyone should assume that the coronavirus will be expected in their community. So, whether they have one case right now, they need to make an assumption that they may have 10 next week. They need to take care of themselves. They need to take personal responsibilities.”

Regardless of the cases near you.

“Everything we’ve been saying over and over again (in regard to hygiene) applies to everyone, whether there’s zero positives in their county or if there are 10 or 12 or 13 or 20,” she said. “I just need to say that.”

Murphy stressed caution.

“We understand the anxiety,” he said. “We get it. We’re going through something we’ve never been through before. We’re doing everything we can to lessen that.

“But everybody has to make sure they are on the right side of the line of being smart, prepared, common sense, planning, being proactive — doing all of those things, but not panicking. There is no reason to go over that line.”

Other notes from the call:

  • Personal protection equipment: The state received four truckloads from the federal government, which included 13,000 gloves, 4,500 masks, 2,208 face shields, 1,482 gowns and 42 overalls.
  • Picking 250 for maximum gathering: Murphy said that is subject to change. “Are we married to 250 forever and always?” he said. “No. I think everything we’re doing we reserve the right to revisit, and 250 is one of them. But it seems to be a number that is best practices. Some folks are at 500; some folks are at 100.”
  • Temporary lift of trucking regulations: It’s a great thing, Murphy said. “When you remove the hours waiver, which is for the overnight trucking reality, you expand the amount of hours available to get goods on the move and into shelves for consumers,” he said. “That’s the sort of big logjam that we’ve broken. The good news is, we’re the warehouse state. I don’t know this, but I would bet a buck that we have the highest percentage of warehouse workers in our workforce as any American state. That means the stuff is in New Jersey. So, any amount of logjam breaking we can do has an immediate impact on our consumers and their ability to access goods.”
  • Hoarding: Murphy made a plea, saying he understood anxieties. “Be smart, prudent, prepared, don’t hoard and don’t panic,” he said. “If we thought there was a reason to hoard, I promise you, we would say so.”
  • State of panic: “We understand the anxiety,” Murphy said. “We get it. We’re going through something we’ve never been through before. We’re doing everything we can to lessen that. But everybody has to make sure they are on the right side of the line of being smart, prepared, common sense, planning, being proactive — doing all of those things, but not panicking. There is no reason to go over that line. If you’re in Bergen County or any of the other 20 counties, folks need to understand that. If there’s a reason to cross the line, I promise you, you’ll hear it from us, and probably yours truly, and we won’t hold back that information.”

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