UNION, NJ – Union County first responders wanted to show their appreciation for the work being done at the county-run COVID-19 test site at Kean University, and a drive-by parade, with fire engine and emergency vehicle sirens blaring, fit the bill.

As of April 16, the site has tested close to 8,100 Union County residents, emergency responders and medical personnel from more than 180 municipalities in New Jersey. The first responders and medical personnel have come from as far south as Cape May County and as far north as Sussex County.

“This team has been taking care of our first responders since the beginning," Union Fire Chief Mike Scanio, who initiated and coordinated the first responder parade. "This is just a small token of our appreciation.”

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Union County Freeholder Chair Al Mirabella, Vice Chair Angel Estrada, and Freeholders Sergio Granados, Kimberly Palmieri-Mouded and Rebecca Williams, and State Senator Joseph Cryan were among those present to cheer on the site’s volunteers and personnel. Fire department trucks and personnel from the following towns attended: Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Berkeley Heights, Cranford, Elizabeth, Garwood, Hillside, Kenilworth, Linden, Mountainside, Roselle Park, Springfield, Summit, and Union.

VIDEO: First Responders Salute Volunteers at Union County Testing Center

“This is such an overwhelming time,” said Palmieri-Mouded.  “I’m proud to be part of Union County’s efforts to offer this service to our residents and to the state’s first responders.  We will get through this.”

First responders from 14 Union County municipalities, plus the County Police and Sheriff’s Office participated in the motorcade parade of firetrucks and emergency vehicles.

“We are very appreciative of all the workers here and how they have continued to support first responders,” said Ed Donnelly, President, New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association (FMBA).  “This is just a small way for us to say thank you.”

“I’d like to thank all the volunteers who come out day after day,” said Union County Manager Ed Oatman, who added that nurses at the testing site consist of retired nurses, along with nurses from schoola and area hospitals. “This is our 20-second day. These volunteers are dedicated and professional. It’s an amazing operation.”

Volunteer Katie Higgins said she comes to the site to help out.  “I work in county administration, but we’ve been reduced to going to the office just two days a week, so I come here the other three days.” 

Higgins, who graduated with a degree in public health from East Carolina University, said she’s grateful for the opportunity to volunteer at the site.  “I’m passionate about epidemiology and public health,” she said. “This has been a tremendous, although sad, experience.”  Higgins, who said she has volunteered over 130 hours so far, will be pursuing a Master’s degree in epidemiology."

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