NJ keeping options open to help contain coronavirus
The New Jersey novel coronavirus mitigation plan is evolving, and being adjusted on the fly, as new reports of the virus are being tabulated every day.
Garden State residents should be ready for possible policy changes state Health Department officials said a coronavirus news conference on Monday afternoon — just hours before Gov. Phil Murphy declared the state's first-ever public health emergency.
That designation does not, in itself, restrict travel or close any public or private offices. Broadly, it makes certain state resources available more easily and allows agencies to waive requirements that might normally slow down their responses.
State Department of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said as the number of new coronavirus cases continues to increase, “now it’s time to consider the addition of strengthening mitigation interventions on a case-by-case basis.”
The Commissioner said mitigation “can go pretty far depending on the community spread.”
That might mean more in the northern part of the state than in the south, for instance, if cases remain clustered there.
Persichilli noted in many instances involving infectious diseases, including the recent uptick of measles cases in New Jersey, “there were clusters but we didn’t shut everybody down — you know, you work with the progression of the disease in an area.”
She stressed however “if we start seeing outbreaks in all 21 counties, if we see exponential increase over time in those counties, yeah, we may say this is a statewide effort.”
As of Monday, state officials had announced 11 presumptive positive cases of coronavirus — "presumptive" until further confirmation by the Centers for Disease control, but assumed to be positive nonetheless. That included Monmouth County's first two cases.
The new cases prompted two school districts to shut down this week.
Persichilli said on Tuesday the state's Coronavirus Task Force will be meeting and discussing possible mitigation criteria, what will be needed at what specific point if novel coronavirus continues to spread.
She said one possible mitigation effort is ‘social distancing’ — which can include “workplace accommodations, telecommuting, school closures and or dismissals, daycare center closures, screening visitors at long-term care facilities.”
She said “probably this week we will have some stronger recommendations on mitigation, as we see things come out.”
Persichilli said individuals who have come into contact with known coronavirus patients may be required to self-quarantine at home for 14 days, so New Jerseyans should think about what they would need in that kind of situation.
“Stock up on a two-weeks' supply of food, make sure you have a two-weeks' supply of your prescription medications and non-prescription medications to reduce fever," she said.
The advice came at the same press conference where Bergen County Executive James J. Tedesco, however, warned it's not necessary to hoard bottled water — saying the county's tap water is safe to trink.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Christina Tan stressed at this time “there does not appear to be sustained community transmission but we continue to follow, we continue to monitor what’s going on.”
She said if more disease is identified in the community, “that’s when we start, and continue to look at other steps and strategies to mitigate spread.”
Persichilli said everyone should practice good personal hygiene, which includes frequent hand=washing and staying home if you’re sick, and not become overly worried about novel coronavirus.
But “if you’re sitting next to someone that’s coughing and appears sick and doesn’t have the wisdom to stay home, get away from them," she said.
The Commissioner stressed this is an evolving situation and New Jersey residents can email questions they may have to firstname.lastname@example.org
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com