TRENTON — New Jersey's Department of Health has been granted permission to test for coronavirus at the state lab.

The World Heath Organization, as of Monday morning, has reported 80 confirmed cases in the United States with two deaths. More than 89,000 people have been diagnosed with the COVD-19 type of coronavirus, with 3,000 deaths reported worldwide.

No cases have been confirmed in New Jersey.

The Emergency Use Authorization issued by the Food and Drug Administration allows the state's lab in West Trenton to conduct the test. Previously all samples had to be sent the CDC lab in Atlanta for initial testing.

"We are not changing our standards for issuing Emergency Use Authorizations. This action today reflects our public health commitment to addressing critical public health needs and rapidly responding and adapting to this dynamic and evolving situation," FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D. said in a statement.

The CDC will perform confirmatory testing on any positive results, which is a requirement of the authorization, according to the state Department of Health.

“The ability to test specimens in New Jersey accelerates the turnaround time for diagnosing cases and implementing public health measures,” Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said. "Testing capability will further enhance New Jersey’s preparedness and response to this evolving health emergency.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Monday it took 12 hours for the New York State Dept. of Health lab, which was also granted permission for testing, to complete its test.

One of the first tests to be performed by the state Department of Health was on a patient at Hackensack Meridian Health Bayshore Medical Center in Holmdel. That test turned out to be negative.

Hackensack Meridian Health is working toward the next step in the testing process — allowing hospitals to conduct the tests themselves.

Sen. Robert Menendez, who toured the Hackensack Meridian Health’s Center for Discovery and Innovation on Friday, said it has developed two sets of diagnostic tests for the coronavirus. One test is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the other test is recommended by a group of scientists in Germany.

Once the diagnostics are tested with a live sample of the virus, Mendndez said, Hackensack Meridian hospitals will be able to test individuals experiencing symptoms on-site instead of sending samples to an outside lab.

“Coronavirus is already in the US and we are preparing for cases in New Jersey,” CEO Robert C. Garrett, said in a statement. “As the state’s largest comprehensive health network, we are positioning ourselves as the leader to mitigate its effects, and also develop innovations which will help in the days and weeks to come.”

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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