Bergen testing facility opens — and more sites are coming soon (SLIDESHOW)

1st FEMA-assisted test site collects more than 650 samples, far more than N.J. thought it would be able to take

By Tom Bergeron
Paramus | Mar 20, 2020 at 4:57 pm

The Bergen Community College coronavirus testing site collected at least 654 specimens Friday, an effort that Gov. Phil Murphy and others called a huge success.

The FEMA-assisted site, which shut down early Friday, will reopen Saturday and Sunday, when the state said it intends to collect 350 specimens each day.

The state’s other Federal Emergency Management Agency-assisted site, at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, intends to open Monday, Murphy and state officials said.

Murphy said the state has had ‘preliminary discussions’ about opening a third FEMA-sponsored site, but had no additional details. In addition, Murphy said other sites — without FEMA assistance — are attempting to get the resources to open.

Jon Cohen, the executive chairman of BioReference Laboratories, said his company hopes to help counties open test sites in Hudson, Passaic, Union, Ocean and Burlington.

There clearly is a demand.

The Bergen site closed around noon Friday, simply because it did not have the resources to handle the demand, according to Chris Neuwirth, the assistant commissioner of the state Department of Health.

“Make no mistake, today’s test site was a success,” Neuwirth said. “We expected to test approximately 200 individuals. And today, preliminary, we’ve tested 654. So, by all measures, it was a success.

“Recognizing the space constraints of the operation and the ability to only store a certain amount of resources on site at any given moment, the resource constraint is why we drew the line at 600 or so.

“We knew that would adjust accordingly as we moved forward. We now know that we will be storing additional resources on site to ensure that we can continue testing for all those who need it that arrive.”

Murphy agreed.

“The fact that we got 600 tests done on Day One with the amount of demand is just extraordinary,” he said. “It’s beyond any wildest dreams. Secondly, I believe we have 2,500 per week at the moment. So, our hope is to be in business each day of the week.”

Murphy said the teamwork required to get this done needed to be acknowledged.

“We’re not patting ourselves on the back, because we make our share of mistakes,” he said. “Not only would I underscore that, but the amount of different organizations that were represented to make this actually happen is jaw-dropping.

“The fact that they were all able to come together and work as seamlessly as they did is a huge credit to each of the organizations.”

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