NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Gov. Phil Murphy announced Wednesday night the first presumptive positive case of novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, in New Jersey.
The man, in his 30s, is hospitalized in Bergen County and has been hospitalized since March 3.
“My Administration is working aggressively to keep residents safe and contain the spread of COVID-19 in New Jersey,” Murphy said. “We take this situation very seriously and have been preparing for this for weeks. I urge residents to remain calm and use resources from the New Jersey Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control to prepare and prevent the spread of infection.”
According to the Governor’s office, the presumptive positive result came from a sample tested by the New Jersey Department of Health at the New Jersey Public Health Environmental Laboratories (PHEL) and is now being submitted to the CDC for confirmatory testing. State and local public health authorities are proceeding with the public health investigation and response activities as if this was a confirmed case.
The hospital is working closely with the Department of Health and continues to follow all infectious disease protocols. Working with the local health department, the New Jersey Department of Health is tracing close contacts of this individual and is taking appropriate public health actions. The investigation is underway and more information will be released when it becomes available.
Although New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said in a statement released by the Governor’s Office that “New Jersey residents are at a very low risk of contracting COVID-19,” local agencies have already begun to take precautions:
New Brunswick School District
In a letter to parents, students and employees posted on the district’s website, the head nurse for the district has listed steps to protect from viral illnesses, including COVID-19.
Marilyn B. Crawford urges washing hands regularly with soap and water, avoiding close contact with sick people, avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth and other measures.
The subject of preparedness for COVID-19 was raised by one parent of three students in the district at Tuesday’s Board of Education. She asked if the 2020-21 budget had earmarked money to increase the custodial staff to keep the schools clean.
“With regards to the budget, not only does next year’s budget have money to buy extra disinfectant and supplies, we have already purchased about $15,000, $20,000 worth of supplies,” said business administrator and secretary Richard Jannarone. “About a month and a half ago we purchased machines that are battery operated, spray machines. So the answer is yes, this budget this year and the budget next year has money in there to purchase items we need to be prepared for the coronavirus and we already have purchased many of the items, in fact all of them.
The university this week announced the cancellation of all Rutgers-sponsored study-abroad semester programs, international spring break programs and Rutgers faculty-sponsored study-abroad programs.
"In keeping with guidance by the CDC, today we made the decision to cancel Rutgers-sponsored study abroad semester programs, international spring break programs, and Rutgers faculty-sponsored study abroad programs," said Rutgers President Robert Barchi.
Barchi also recommended any Rutgers student currently abroad in a third-party study abroad program "return home as soon as practical." And he advised against Rutgers students and staff traveling abroad at this time.
Barchi commented last month that the school has mobilized a task force of senior leaders involved in many aspects of university operations to respond to “urgent and evolving challenges presented by COVID-19.”
Diocese of Metuchen
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Metuchen has taken measures in parishes across its four counties amid growing national concern over the spread of the coronavirus.
The Most Rev. James F. Checchio, Bishop of Metuchen, has issued several directives on liturgical practices to be observed in all parishes, institutions and organizations within the Diocese of Metuchen.
Checchio is urging any individual who is sick or has flu-like symptoms should not attend mass or other church gatherings.
He also said the sign of peace should be exchanged without physical contact and the distribution of the Previous Blood of Christ from the chalice is to be suspended.
Also, no one is obligated to receive the Body of Christ on his or her tongue. According to a statement from the Diocese, a “worthy, reverent reception by hand is preferred until otherwise notified.”
Saint Peter’s University Hospital
The hospital’s website continues to collect up-to-the-minute information from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.
The site has information ranging from how the virus is spread to symptoms of COVID-19 to reports of known cases around the world.
The county convened a meeting earlier this week with local partners, including local hospitals, to discuss plans and preparations pertaining to the spread of COVID-19.
At the meeting were New Jersey State Senator Joseph F. Vitale and representatives from the Middlesex County Health and Safety office, Middlesex County College, Middlesex County Vocational Technical Schools and the Executive County Superintendent. Also present were several local healthcare partners, including representatives from Hackensack Meridian Health, RWJBarnabas Health, Saint Peter’s Healthcare System, and Penn Medicine Princeton Health.
Those representatives briefed members of the state legislature and mayors and business administrators from across the county’s 25 municipalities on those preparations and plans in place.
“I would like to thank all those at the County and state level, as well as those in the private sector, for all they have done and for coming together to ensure the safety and well-being of our residents and visitors,” said Middlesex County Board of Freeholders Director Ronald Rios. “During these meetings over the past couple of days, it has been an honor to work with a dedicated group of individuals who want nothing more than to keep our residents and visitors safe, healthy, and informed,” said Director Rios.
“At Saint Peter’s University Hospital, we are reviewing our preparedness for the COVID-19 on a daily basis,” said Linda Carroll, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer at Saint Peter’s Healthcare System. “As a women and children’s hospital with over 5,000 births, we are prepared to care for laboring women who potentially may be a person under investigation for COVID-19. We have staged our induction suites to be negative pressure as well as the operating rooms in that area so that if a laboring woman requires a C-section or any type of general surgery, it can be performed in that space. We will also be restricting visitors for any patient that has tested positive. For the well-being of our patients, the hospital will provide them with iPads so that visitation with family members and friends can happen remotely.”