BERNARDS TWP., NJ _  Bernards Township officials announced on Saturday that the Bernards Township health department, in conjunction with New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) has confirmed its first case of Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 in Bernards Township.

The Health Department is doing epidemiological interviews to determine any individuals with close contact of a lab confirmed case of COVID-19 in the township, according to an announcement sent out on Saturday. 

"The Health Department will contact these elevated-risk individuals directly to advise them about additional precautions they should take to prevent spread of the virus," the announcement said. Residents were asked to not call 9-1-1 with questions about this case.

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44 cases reported on Saturday morning in Somerset County

The number of confirmed Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Somerset County has increased to 44 as of Saturday morning, according to the Somerset County Department of Health.

That is an increase of 14 cases overnight. Statewide, there are 1,327 cases, and 16 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

"This is a rapidly evolving situation and it’s easy for rumors and misinformation to be spread in the community. The Bernards Township Health Department is working closely with local officials, the Bernards Township Office of Emergency Management and the NJDOH to provide residents with the most up to date and accurate information," the release said.

Based upon New Jersey Department of Health guidance, individuals with no symptoms are not recommended to be tested at this time, officials are saying. Individuals with mild symptoms should stay home if they are sick and follow the guidance of their healthcare provider.

Those who are experiencing severe symptoms or have had close contact with a person who has COVID-19 are advised to call their healthcare provider and ask about testing.

The township's mayor said the confirmed case reinforced the need for taking precautions.

"With our first case of confirmed COVID-19 virus appearing in Bernards Township, now more than ever we must make sure we take seriously and actively practice the precautionary measures that have been put in place to help slow the spread of this new virus," Mayor James Baldassare Jr. said in the announcement. 

"Everyone please continue to practice sound hygiene, wash your hands, do not touch your face and maintain social distancing. Do not congregate, avoid mass gatherings and maintain distance. While we are seeing the beginning of this here in town, I am confident that if we all do our part and practice these necessary measures, we will get through this much sooner rather than later," he added. 

"Everyone please stay safe. Let's all continue to remain calm and above all, positive. We will see this through together, and together, we will come out stronger as a community in the end," the mayor said.

Call 2-1-1 for questions about COVID-19

New Jersey has activated NJ 2-1-1 for residents to call to help handle questions about COVID-19.

NJ 211 is New Jersey’s statewide, comprehensive information and referral service operated by United Ways of New Jersey. Residents can also text NJCOVID to 898-211 to receive text information and stay informed. To receive live text assistance, residents can text their zip code to 898-211.

Currently, there is no vaccination for COVID-19. The Bernards Township Health Department is encouraging all residents to take precautions and practice social distancing to protect themselves and others from respiratory illness. These measures include:

- Avoid crowds and large gatherings always maintain at least a 6-foot distance from others.

- Stay home if you are sick. Limit close contact with people who are sick.

- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

- If soap and water are not readily available, use a 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

- For more information on COVID-19, visit:

Bernards Township Health Department website: www.bernardshealth.org
The New Jersey Department of Health website: https://www.nj.gov/health/cd/topics/ncov.shtml Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/summary.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fsummary.html

The Bernards Township Health Department is the contractual health agency serving Bernards Township, Bernardsville Borough, Chester Borough, Long Hill Township, Mendham Borough, and Peapack and Gladstone Borough. For more information, visit: http://www.bernardshealth.org

_ Rod Hirsch contributed Somerset County information to this report.