Miles of cars waiting, drive-thru coronavirus test site hits capacity & closes
New Jersey's first federally operated drive-through testing center for the coronavirus opened Friday in Bergen County — but closed early mid-day after hitting capacity, officials in nearby towns said.
The center at Bergen Community College in Paramus was set to hold daily hours from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for New Jersey residents with symptoms to get tested, according to state health officials. Gov. Phil Murphy has said the center is operating under the Federal Emergency Management Agency and is expected to be joined soon by a similar center in Monmouth County.
During a daily briefing on Friday, state health officials said the site in Paramus collected 654 specimens, which Assistant Health Commissioner Christopher Neuwirth called a "success."
The testing site will reopen Saturday and start collecting up to 350 specimens a day.
The FEMA-supported testing center in Paramus was the first spot in the state where patients, en masse, could show up and be screened then tested on the spot. Another FEMA drive-through testing site will open 8 a.m. Monday at PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel. However, state officials said Thursday only those with symptoms should show up, to avoid overwhelming the cite and slowing care for those in more immediate need. Test results still take days to come back.
State officials have said the FEMA-backed testing sites can handle thousands of tests in a week.
The Daily Voice of reported Friday lines of cars stretched for miles at the testing center, with two allowed in at a time as medical workers in face guards, gloves and body robes asked those arriving screening questions before taking swabs.
Around 12:30 p.m., officials from neighboring communities began reporting via Twitter the center could be closed because it had hit maximum capacity. Reports of the same came from reporters on-site.
The state on Friday recorded two more deaths, for a total of 11 — four of which have been at nursing homes. The latest deaths were of a 37-year-old man from Essex County and 52-year-old man from Bergen County. Both had underlying health conditions as well.
The state added 155 positive cases overnight, for a total of 890 so far.
Bergen County has been a hot spot in the state, with 249 positive cases, according to Health Department data, more than any other county.
For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
The vast majority of people recover over a period of weeks.
(Includes material copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Also includes Townsquare staff reports.)