NUTLEY, NJ -- Researchers at the Hackensack Meridian Health Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI) are currently developing rapid response diagnostic tests for the coronavirus, known as COVID-19. Robert Menendez, U.S. Senator from New Jersey, toured the CDI lab and called for a stronger federal response to this growing crisis. TAPintoTV spoke with CDI officials as well as their Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. David Perlin, who assured us that the CDI was doing their part to get New Jersey and the country prepared.

“We want to allay fears, we want to demystify what this virus is about, who’s at risk, and what the potential is for serious disease. It all comes down to how prepared we are to address this virus,” Perlin said. 

To date, the coronavirus has spread to 48 countries, and federal health authorities have warned Americans to prepare for major disruptions should transmission rates increase.  

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“Many Americans throughout New Jersey and the nation are justifiably concerned,” said Senator Menendez. “Now is not the time to panic, but rather to prepare.” 

CDI scientists have established two sets of diagnostic tests for the coronavirus. One test is recommended by the CDC, and the other by a prominent group in Germany that is being adopted in Europe. Once the diagnostics have been tested with a live sample of the virus, Hackensack Meridian hospitals will be able to test symptomatic patients directly instead of sending tests to a CDC lab to receive a diagnosis, which will both speed up results and courses of treatment. 

The CDI has been on the forefront of virus outbreaks before--their experts developed diagnostics as part of the 2003 SARS response and the the 2009 H1N1 flu epidemic. “As a scientist, I have an obligation to transmit my knowledge about science to the public,” said Perlin, “and to be able to communicate what science can really do for people.” 

Senator Menendez is a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, which sets national health care policy, and he has recently been leading efforts in Congress to ensure resources will be available to combat the coronavirus outbreak. 

“We need coordinated government response strategies to protect our public health and keep the American people safe. If a vaccine breakthrough is achieved, we have to make sure that every American in need is able to access it and afford it,” Menendez said. “Otherwise, it is a false promise.”

“The United States is capable of answering any challenge so long as we have the necessary resources,a strategy to succeed, a respect for science and a commitment to the truth,” Menendez added. 

For updates on the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., visit the CDC’s coronavirus webpage at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.