Coronavirus testing in NJ could soon expand dramatically
Testing for the novel coronavirus is expected to be expanded in the days and weeks ahead.
On Saturday, state officials said that the first widespread testing center would be set up at Bergen Community College in Paramus starting Monday. The testing would be prioritized for high-risk people in the county such as symptomatic healthcare workers, the medically frail and those connected to clusters of positive cases.
Bergen County so far has had the most positive cases of the coronavirus, which has been rattling the world in a pandemic. All the public schools in the county have been closed.
The state laboratory and a handful of private labs are doing testing and results take a few days. But Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday said that “we are exploring any and all avenues to dramatically expand access to testing and that is literally a 24-hour endeavor.’
“We’re looking at everything, as you can imagine, including home testing.”
Private labs will have the ability to do the fastest testing, meaning health officials expect the number of positive cases to skyrocket.
On Thursday, Hackensack Meridian Health announced its Center for Discovery and Innovation had created a test that dramatically reduces the time it takes for diagnosing COVID-19. They describe the test, which produces results in hours, not days, as a “game-changing diagnostic tool.”
“We believe our test could make the difference in stemming outbreaks," David Perlin, the chief scientific officer of the CDI, said. "It’s fast and it’s accurate, and crucial hours could mean the difference in stopping the spread of this virus.”
Perlin is considered a global infectious disease expert who helped develop diagnostics for SARS and other infectious diseases.
Gov. Murphy said testing is also important for psychological reasons.
“We acknowledge the anxiety that folks have and a lot of that anxiety stems from unknown unknowns,” he said. “Like a lot of things in life, the more we know, the better prepared any of us would be to be able to deal with the reality in front of us.”
Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said that for the time being, the testing protocol remains the same.
“If you don’t have symptoms, testing is not recommended. If your symptoms are mild and your health care provider tells you to stay home, follow the guidance.”
She also pointed out that testing results do not change the treatment.
"There is no specific vaccine at this point in time for COVID-19, and all of the treatment is geared toward symptomatic relief," she said.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com