CAMDEN, NJ — Following the first two presumptive positive cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in New Jersey, Camden County and school district officials are recommending that residents remain calm and take precautionary measures.
“The immediate risk to our community remains low, however, it is important to be realistic about this threat and to prepare accordingly,” said Camden County Health Officer Dr. Paschal Nwako. “Based on what we know about this virus, it spreads the same way as most respiratory illnesses. That means that the most effective means of prevention is to wash your hands frequently and properly, and to exhibit other good hygiene practices.”
Gov. Phil Murphy announced the first presumptive positive case in New Jersey on Wednesday. The case would require additional testing by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to be classified as a positive case. On Thursday afternoon, Acting Gov. Sheila Oliver announced that a second case had surfaced (with more details to be released).
The Camden County Department of Health said it is “ramping up” efforts to prepare for the event that coronavirus enters the community.
As of Thursday afternoon, there have been 11 deaths linked to the novel virus, it is known to have spread to 18 states with more than 98,000 cases and 3,300 deaths worldwide.
In a letter released today, Camden Superintendent Katrina McCombs said she shares parent’s concerns, “as this remains an evolving and dynamic situation.”
“The Camden City School District is working closely with state and county health officials to ensure our policies and procedures align with the latest recommended preventative measures as well as to monitor updates regarding the virus and the potential impact it may have on our community,” McCombs said.
McCombs added that the district will keep parents and community partners updated with information as it becomes available.
Meantime, the county’s health department is also working with the CDC and New Jersey Department of Health — who has recently confirmed that the Bergen County case is that of a 32-year-old man being traded at Hackensack University Medical Center.
Officials said that as of March 5, there are currently no known cases of coronavirus in Camden County.
“The general public should not be buying or wearing facemasks. Facemasks are not an effective method of protecting yourself from coronavirus,” said Nwako. “On the other hand, facemasks are critical for care providers and individuals who are coming into direct contact with those who are known to be infected. We need help from the public to ensure that there is an available supply of protective equipment for these care providers. The nation’s supply of these critical resources is not unlimited.”
Health officials are recommending the following health practices:
Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing
Washing your hands properly and often with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
Avoiding close contact with sick people
Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth as much as possible
Staying home from work or school when you are sick
The Camden School District said it has taken the following preventative steps:
Provide additional training to our facilities staff to ensure best and evidenced-based practices are used during daily cleaning procedures in response to reducing the spread of illnesses.
Routine cleaning procedures have been supplemented with a concentration on cleaning all surfaces, with a particular emphasis on cleaning common touchpoints, like doorknobs, tables, and other frequently shared items. These surfaces will be cleaned during the school day much more frequently as a means to mitigate any potential transmission.
While the CDC has not recommended canceling or postponing travel to destinations where the risk of coronavirus is thought to be low, it posted the following routine precautions:
Avoid contact with sick people.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
Clean your hands often by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60%–95% alcohol. Soap and water should be used if hands are visibly dirty.
It is especially important to clean hands after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.