Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday said the state has its first "presumptive positive case" of novel coronavirus, a potentially deadly disease that has been spreading around the world.

The patient in New Jersey was described only as a man in his 30s who has been hospitalized in Bergen County since March 3. The announcement on Wednesday did not identify the hospital by name. However, Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich later told the man is from his community, and in isolation at Hackensack University Medical Center.

Health officials are "tracing close contacts of this individual and [are] taking appropriate public health actions," Murphy said in a written statement.

The news comes after the state Department of Health asked anyone who had attended an event last month at a New Rochelle, New York, Jewish temple to self-quarantine after a man who had attended later tested positive for coronavirus, or COVID-19, and may have infected at least nine other people. In total, New York state has reported 11 positive cases of COVID-19.

New Jersey officials on Wednesday did not say where the man in Bergen County had traveled or whether he was linked to the temple in Westchester County.

“We take this situation very seriously and have been preparing for this for weeks," Murphy, who was recovering Wednesday from a successful surgery to remove a kidney tumor, said in his statement. "I urge residents to remain calm and use resources from the New Jersey Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control to prepare and prevent the spread of infection. Safeguarding the public’s health is one of my highest priorities and my Administration is prepared to respond swiftly to any additional positive cases of COVID-19 here in New Jersey.”

Fear of the virus, which originated in China, has caused financial markets to wobble and people to buy out store stocks of face masks and hand sanitizers. Rutgers and Kean universities this week canceled road trips for some of their athletic teams and Rutgers suspended its study abroad program.

State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said most residents "are at very low risk of contracting COVID-19.”

“The Department is working closely with the CDC and local health officials to respond to this case and is monitoring the evolving situation across the nation," she said Wednesday.

State officials said that they have been preparing for the virus since early January, when the Department of Health shared state and CDC guidance with hospitals, schools and businesses.

The state said the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System hotline at 1-800-222-1222 has fielded nearly 1,200 calls about the virus.

Preventing the spread of the coronavirus is the same as precautions taken for the flu: washing hands, avoiding touching one's face, staying home when sick.

Symptoms are also similar to the flu: fever, cough, shortness of breath.

People with suspected symptoms should contact their health care provider to make arrangements before showing up at the office.

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Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email

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