NEWARK, NJ - Saint James Health has launched door-to-door COVID-19 testing in a senior building in Newark, the first program of its kind to in the city.

Saint James health, a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), began the testing in the Ballantyne House in the city’s North Ward.

“Not only will we provide door-to-door testing, but we’ll also screen all seniors for any additional healthcare needs that they may be unable to access at this time due to the need to quarantine,” said Nicole Fields, the CEO of Saint James Health.

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“Saint James Health is dedicated to increasing access to COVID-19 testing to most vulnerable population starting with seniors,” Fields said. “Door-to-door testing will allow for maximum social distancing to keep all residents safely in their homes while receiving services.”

The testing program comes as the virus that causes COVID-19 continues to devastate Newark. The city has the most cases of COVID-19 in the state and Newark on Wednesday surpassed 500 deaths related to the virus. New Jersey has more than 141,000 cases and nearly 10,000 deaths.

While testing is becoming more widely available throughout New Jersey, the state is still falling short of minimum levels required by the federal government to begin the process of opening up. Health experts say a massive expansion of testing is required to prevent a second wave from sweeping across the state.

Newark has several testing locations, but some are drive-thru, requiring a car. Others, such as one set up at the roller rink in Branch Brook Park, require seniors to leave their homes, something that many are reluctant to do.

North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos Jr. said he saw a need to address the fear that many seniors have about leaving their homes. He facilitated the partnership between the Ballantyne House and Saint James Health and will seek to expand it to other facilities in his ward.

"FQHCs like Saint James Health play a critical role in addressing the healthcare needs of our most vulnerable population," Ramos said. "I am grateful to Saint James for answering our call to help. We need to take a proactive approach when it comes to testing our most vulnerable populations and this is a great way to deliver preventative healthcare during this pandemic.”