FLEMINGTON, NJ - Hunterdon County officials are pressing for a testing facility for concerned residents, and efforts are underway to push both state and federal governments to act and deliver at least one site and sufficient testing kits and personal protective equipment (PPE) to an area near the county.
To date, no facility has been officially planned.
Freeholder Director Shaun C. Van Doren highlighted his conversations with leadership of the neighboring counties and the urgent need for a mobile COVID-19 testing site.
“Accurate detection and containment of the coronavirus is the best chance to flatten the curve and reduce the spread of this virus,” he said.
On March 31 Van Doren said, he worked with Warren County’s Richard Gardner, as together they reached out to Gov. Phil Murphy to ask him to seek a western New Jersey federal test site like he did for South Jersey.
Murphy obtained such a federal facility at Rowan College of South Jersey in Sewell. The site drive-thru testing site opened April 8 and is able to test 100 patients per day.
That same day, Hunterdon County Administrator Kevin P. Davis confirmed with TAPInto Flemington-Raritan that there had been no response from Murphy’s office for the Hunterdon and Warren counties joint request.
Van Doren followed up on the request with letters to Sen. Bob Menendez and Sen. Cory Booker, as well as Rep. Tom Malinowski, asking them to push through this request for testing kits.
In his update April 7, Van Doren said, “The answer continues to be no answer. I urge residents to flood the governor’s office with questions as to why no federal test site to cover western New Jersey? And why no test kits for our residents?”
Requests to the federal government have been carried out since March by various arms of county administration. Hunterdon County OEM submitted resource requests through the state OEM to FEMA for 64,000 additional units of PPE and for a federal task force for a mass testing site to be located in Hunterdon County.
In late March, the freeholders directed OEM to submit a request to FEMA for 5,000 COVID-19 testing kits, in response to a request from Hunterdon Healthcare.
“The county has taken numerous steps and engaged in numerous activities to seek state and federal assistance to deal with the public health emergency, and to keep local officials and residents aware of the situation,” he said. "I have reached out to federal officials to meet Hunterdon County’s requests for test kits and PPE.”
At the Board of Chosen Freeholders’ meeting April 7, Van Doren provided an update on efforts by Hunterdon County’s Office of Emergency Management and Health Department working with their counterparts in Somerset County on setting up a potential “Joint County COVID-19” drive-through testing site at Raritan Valley Community College, in Branchburg.
Van Doren shared details of his latest conversation with his counterpart, Somerset County Freeholder Director Shanel Robinson.
“Mrs. Robinson and her board have been actively involved in the establishment of a joint testing site, and we are optimistic that the necessary test kits and equipments will be supplied soon,” he said.
In order to have a joint test site, testing kits and plenty of PPE for those who will administer the tests (several thousand) must be supplied from state or federal sources.
“We have agreed that we need to have a sustainable operation,” the Hunterdon County freeholders said. “Until those resources are obtained, no firm date for the test site can be established.”
Robinson said April 3 that Somerset and Hunterdon counties are working together on setting up a joint testing site.
"We’ve been working very hard behind the scenes to get access to supplies and to set up a test site for the health and safety of our residents,” she said. “Our partners in this initiative include Congressman Malinowski, Gov. Murphy, the New Jersey Department of Health, the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management and Hunterdon County. We will continue to do everything we can to ensure that all possible resources are made available to residents in Somerset and Hunterdon counties.”
In early April, several Somerset municipalities passed resolutions calling for the joint county testing site with Hunterdon to be established as proposed at RVCC. On April 6 the Rocky Hill Borough Council in Somerset County unanimously approved a resolution in support of the state providing the needed resources to establish the joint county testing site, provide the PPE and testing kits necessary and for the State of New Jersey, the New Jersey Legislature and Members of Congress to act quickly to provide the resources to the two counties.
Also on April 6, the Bedminster Township Committee unanimously approved a resolution similar to the one approved in Rocky Hill. Bedminster Mayor Lawrence Jacobs said the committee there is concerned that the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in both Hunterdon and Somerset counties are skewed low due to the lack of available testing kits and no presence of a testing site west of Edison, or closer than Quaker Bridge Mall in Mercer County.
A similar resolution has been drafted for the Montgomery Township Committee, for approval at its April 16 meeting.
Van Doren completed his update April 7 by stating the freeholder board looks forward to announcing the formal process “of accepting Somerset and Hunterdon residents for testing, the criteria and when it will open.”