FLEMINGTON, NJ - The Hunterdon County Board of Chosen Freeholders authorized its recently-announced COVID-19 Testing Services Agreement with the Hunterdon Medical Center, for a one-year term through July 19, 2021.
After stating the total of over 1,100 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Hunterdon County since March, County Health Director Karen DeMarco told the Freeholder Board that long-term immunity from a previous COVID-19 infection in individuals has not been established.
“Based on current research, there’s growing evidence to show that people can in fact be reinfected after recovery,” she said. “The rate of infection as a metric is most valuable when we look at COVID-19 information countywide, but this should not present a false sense of security about individuals who may be protected within the community. Each of us must be vigilant and continue to practice healthy habits and protocols to protect our own health and that of those around us.”
DeMarco noted data and indicators from 911 dispatch calls, daily COVID-19 testing results and reports from medical providers are continuing to show a reduction in COVID-19 rates and activity within Hunterdon County.
However, county health officials are actively noting the list of 31 quarantine states noted by New Jersey state officials, with concerns over people traveling into the Garden State from places where the new infection rate is trending upward.
“COVID-19 is still present within this county and in the state,” DeMarco said. “In the last week in Hunterdon, we’ve received positive COVID-19 case reports associated with youth camps and public pools, and individuals who may have been exposed at those locations have been contacted and advised to quarantine. The facilities involved in the positive results had implemented requirements of social distancing, face coverings and disinfection practices as recommended, which reduces the risk of individuals becoming ill, but it does not eliminate the need for them to quarantine."
Freeholder Director Shaun C. Van Doren announced how pleased he and his fellow county officials were to make official a COVID-19 testing site in Raritan Township, for Hunterdon County residents.
“Last week, the board was pleased to announce its agreement with Hunterdon Medical Group to provide a testing location in Raritan Township beginning July 21, and a resolution confirming this agreement is on this agenda,” he said. “The board is committed to ensuring that all residents have as much access to COVID-19 testing as possible. The present plan is for this site to provide free tests to residents on Tuesdays, and should the demand be greater, consideration will be given to increased testing availability. The board greatly appreciates the cooperation of the Hunterdon Medical Group in joining us in providing this needed service.”
DeMarco noted that the CDC and State Health Department still list priority groups for COVID-19 testing based on the limited supply of test kits.
“With spikes in cases across the nation, there is increased demand on both testing kits and the labs for processing the kits,” she said. “Priority groups continue to be those who are symptomatic, those who have been exposed to a case, individuals at higher risk for complications associated with COVID-19 and healthcare workers.”
Van Doren said appointments must be made for county residents seeking COVID-19 testing, and individuals must have a valid prescription from their medical provider. People must schedule a testing appointment by calling 908-237-4230 or reaching out via email to HMGDOTTesting@hhsnj.org.
The contact information is also available on the Health Department’s web page.
COVID-19 testing is also still available to Hunterdon residents at the Wal-Mart on Route 31 in Raritan Township, as well as at CVS at 798 Route 202 in Readington Township (just northeast of Three Bridges).
As noted at the freeholder board’s last two meetings, the Raritan Valley Community College Joint County COVID-19 testing site, organized with an agreement with the Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders in April, became underutilized by Hunterdon residents and the county decided to end its partnership after close to three months of the partnership and shared allocations of resources, including county health department staffers who worked on-site at RVCC.
“The decrease in our residents’ participation there made the continuation of our county’s participation at RVCC economically unfeasible,” Van Doren said. “As I said at our last meeting, the Hunterdon Board of Chosen Freeholders appreciates the cooperation and support provided by the Somerset County Freeholders that made the RVCC Joint Testing Site a successful operation.”
Hunterdon County Administrator Kevin P. Davis said at the board meeting that if more testing dates become necessary, the county will plan and make the needed accommodations with HMC.
“Conversely, if we don’t need to have as many test dates, we will pull back from the operation,” he said. “We have engaged with HMC to provide the testing site, and we’ll do this on Tuesdays as we will see the response we get from the public. The response for testing dwindled at RVCC, and part of that was because CVS and Walmart began to offer testing in the county.”
“We’ve had great cooperation from the hospital (Hunterdon Medical Center) in making this happen, and the hospital is having their professionals handling this testing, and it comes as a relief to our health department and Medical Reserve Corps volunteers that have worked so very hard these last three months on the pandemic,” he added.
Hunterdon County’s resident volunteers in the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), Davis said, have contributed to the effort there and across other health department initiatives. According to Van Doren, county MRC volunteers worked a combined 148 hours over 17 testing dates at RVCC since April, as they collected many testing specimens.
He said 36 volunteers worked 1,031 hours over its 53 days of operation, “supporting the test site hotline,” and 55 more residents joined the MRC since the start of 2020.
“We also extend Medical Reserve Corps volunteers on the frontlines, doing the testing at the RVCC site and also those manning the lines for those seeking tests, and providing assistance with HMC’s triage hotline, continuing to help the county Health Department with contact tracing,” he said. “These volunteers have been a key part of our county’s successful pandemic response. This is truly a remarkable record of helping one’s fellow residents.”