National Guard to keep order at major COVID-19 testing site opening in Bergen
FEMA is opening the first of two coronavirus drive-thru community testing centers Friday morning in Bergen County, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in New Jersey.
Each location will be conducting 2,500 novel coronavirus tests per week.
The first site, staffed by the state Department of Health, State Police and the National Guard, will be operational seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Bergen Community College in Paramus.
Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said in order to be tested, individuals must be symptomatic with either a fever, a cough or shortness of breath. They do not need to be referred by a physician.
This marks a significant change in the testing protocol in New Jersey. Up until now, patients could only be checked for the novel coronavirus after having a doctor order a test.
People who want to get tested must also have identification proving they are a New Jersey resident.
“When they arrive, they’ll be screened for fever, shortness of breath or cough and individuals who are otherwise asymptomatic will be turned away,” said Assistant Health Commissioner Chris Neuwirth.
The state Health Department reports as of March 19, Bergen County has 195 of the 742 positive cases of COVID-19 in New Jersey, the highest total of any county by far.
A similar testing site being set up by FEMA at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Monmouth County is expected to become operational sometime next week.
Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday that “this is not for the worried well."
"Expanding access to testing for those with symptoms is critical in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and flattening the curve ( of those requiring hospitalization) in New Jersey," he said.
State Police Superintendent Pat Callahan said is expecting thousands of vehicles to show up, so the National Guard and state troopers will be on location.
“I do envision some long lines but we are going to be working through that process, especially because it’s the first time to my knowledge that we’ve ever done this in the history of New Jersey," Callahan said.
Neuwirth said the specimen collection will be completed by healthcare workers and individuals will be advised about test results within two to five days.
The address of the testing site is 400 Paramus Road, parking lots B and C.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com