TRENTON — New Jersey surpassed its goal a few days early of conducting at least 20,000 coronavirus tests per day, Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday.

There were 30,000 tests Saturday, the Democrat said, before the tally dipped over the Memorial Day holiday. Then on Tuesday, there were 24,000 tests, he said. The state wanted to hit at least 20,000 daily tests by the end of May.

“We want New Jerseyans to get tested,” Murphy said. “Anyone who wants to get tested can get tested.”

The governor is using the tests as a barometer for reopening the state's economy as the pandemic threat eases. More testing gives health leaders a better picture of the scope of the outbreak, Murphy has said.

The “best tool in our toolkit” to fight the virus is quarantining positive cases and to do that “you need to find the positives," Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said Wednesday.

Getting a coronavirus test no longer requires a prescription. While the general public can get a test, essential workers and those who believe they could have the virus are encouraged to get them, Persichilli said.

New Jersey has 164 testing centers. Some are publicly run and some are privately operated.

On a per-capita basis, New Jersey is ahead of 46 states on testing, behind New Mexico, Florida and New York.

The state reported 970 positive cases overnight, bringing the total to about 157,000. There were 148 new deaths, putting the death toll at 11,339.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness or death.

CARE HOME TESTING

Most of the more than 500 care homes in the state have reported testing data as required this month by the governor, Persichilli said.

Of those homes, 86% sent the state reports from tests of staffers and residents, she said. All such homes in the state have submitted paperwork saying they've updated their testing and outbreak response plans.

Murphy said May 12 that all long-term care homes in New Jersey would have to test all residents and staffers by this week.

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