CAMDEN, NJ — East Camden, a neighborhood brimming with Mexican and Vietnamese populations, is now considered a "hotspot" for the novel coronavirus — expected to exceed 3,000 cases countywide this week.

“A lot of the folks in that community have not been tested,” said Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli during a Tuesday afternoon press conference out of Blackwood. “But those who have been tested in that neighborhood have come up with a very high rate of positive tests.”

That many have not been tested for COVID-19 in East Camden will change May 5 when the county opens one of two new sites slated for the city — which has roughly a quarter of the county’s 2,969 positive cases as of Tuesday. 

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Another stark reality, county officials noted, in the virtual conference was the state of long-term care facilities.

Of the 125 fatalities linked to the virus as of Tuesday, 80 percent can be traced back to 27 of the 56 centers in the county. 

Cappelli also called the facilities a "hotspot," bluntly stating that some have “not done a good job” in their mitigation and preparation efforts. 

The facilities have become the source of outbreaks throughout the nation. In NJ, state officials recently partnered with local health officials to begin inspecting their pandemic response capabilities.

Moreover, Cappelli shared that over 2,700 of Camden County patients have recovered or are currently recovering from COVID-19 at home, with some 130 currently hospitalized. 

He attributed recent spikes to less social distancing during Easter and Passover weekends, saying overall, “We’re moving in the right direction.”

While knocking on wood, he also said the county’s 911 call center, jail, county police force have thus far been, “almost free from this virus.” 

Meantime, the call to reopen the state of New Jersey is something Congressman Donald Norcross says could be tricky.

“We can’t look at the nation as whole and make a decision and [we] can’t do it as a state...each [area] has to be looked at its own merit,” Norcross said.

In response to an audience question about what the new normal would look like, he said that’s “the big question” — adding that it would have to be gradual, job specific, and rely on testing, which at the moment is not happening enough.

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