NEWARK. NJ — Recognizing its status as one of the areas most affected by the coronavirus. Essex County expanded its testing to some of Newark’s more hard-to-serve populations this week, including the Ironbound’s immigrant community.
Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin (D-Newark), who was part of the team that set up a pop-up site in the Seabra Foods parking lot, said Tuesday the site tested around 200 Essex County residents.
“At a time like this, where we see how important testing is at the state, county and municipal level, we want to make sure that we reach all the communities,” she said.
Essex County has the most deaths of any county in the state, while Newark, the epicenter of the virus in New Jersey, has the most out of any municipalities. Only Bergen and Hudson counties have more positive COVID-19 cases than Essex County.
Communities like Newark, a mostly black and brown city with pockets of immigrant populations, can be especially challenging to serve. Many undocumented residents fear deportation in the Trump era’s hostile climate, deterring residents from going to a government-run COVID-19 testing center.
Pintor Marin said many of the residents in the Ironbound live in close quarters in multi-family apartments and many are essential employees who work in blue collar jobs in supermarkets, restaurants, bakeries, and hospitals, where they are at a higher risk of exposure to the virus.
Pintor Marin said it was important to have later hours for residents who work and aren't able to get to another testing site with earlier hours. She also said setting up a pop-up site at Seabras made testing more accessible to residents of the Ironbound.
"I want to thank our county executive for his foresight in making testing available in as many communities as possible throughout Essex County," Pintor Marin. "We need to get as many people tested as we possibly can."
Essex County will offer other pop-up testing sites throughout the county in addition to continuing to operate its Weequahic Park testing center. All tests are by appointment only, but residents both with and without symptoms are encouraged to get tested. Those taking the saliva test should not eat, drink, smoke or chew gum before being tested.
“Our fight against this deadly disease is far from over, and we must remain vigilant and aggressive to combat it. Testing is a critical tool that will tell us exactly how widespread the virus is and who has been infected,” said Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo in a statement. “We want to make it as easy as possible for Essex residents to have access to testing.”