CAMDEN, NJ — Before New Jersey can reopen - a “broad blueprint” of which Gov. Phil Murphy says he plans to lay out Monday — testing will have to expand across New Jersey.
Whereas NJ currently administers approximately 7,000 to 9,000 tests a day, health officials said that number would have to rise to between 20,000 to 30,000.
On Thursday, State Epidemiologist Dr. Christina Tan called a new saliva test, developed by Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS), a “game-changer” on the road to mass screenings statewide.
As opposed to the current nose-swab method, which can be uncomfortable and imprecise, the state university’s test requires patients to spit in a cup — imparting 100 percent results in less than 48 hours.
The current tests, which can take as much as a week to come back, have a 70 percent accuracy rating.
“Testing is the new linchpin to begin to return to normalcy,” Brian Strom, Chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, said during the state’s daily press conference in Trenton.
The tests are a "huge breakthrough coming from our very own flagship university,” said Murphy.
Within the next two weeks, New Jersey plans to issue 10,000 saliva tests a day. Strom added that the capacity could increase and additional equipment will be necessary.
“It is expandable in a modular fashion. There is no limit. This is so new, we’re just launching,” Strom said.
The COVID-19 death toll is now 5,369, with New Jersey on the precipice of 100,000 cases.
Long-term-care facilities across the state account for over 13,000 cases and 1,540 deaths.
“As we work to expand testing across the state, we will be prioritizing the most vulnerable populations like those who reside in these centers,” New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said today.
Rutgers’ saliva tests will first be administered out of the RWJBarnabas Health network, which has a partnership with Rutgers University as well as Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick and University Hospital in Newark.
The tests received FDA approval last week.
“The impact of this approval is significant,” Rutgers-New Brunswick Andrew Brooks, also the chief operating officer and director of technology development at RUCDR, said at the time. “It means we no longer have to put health care professionals at risk for infection by performing nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal collections. We can preserve precious personal protective equipment for use in patient care instead of testing."