A top doctor at a Paterson hospital is among the New Jerseyans infected by the novel coronavirus.

St. Joseph's University Medical Center's medical director of emergency preparedness, Dr. James Pruden, is presumed positive for coronavirus and is currently under isolation at the hospital, where he was admitted on March 6.

"The 150,000 employees of our hospitals throughout the state put themselves on the front lines of risk every day," said Kevin Slavin, president and chief executive officer of St. Joseph's Health in Paterson and president of the New Jersey Hospital Association.

Slavin said Pruden is a state and national leader on EMS and emergency response — a first responder on 9/11 who also traveled to Houston to help with recovery after Hurricane Harvey.

"Dr. Pruden is the person always on the front lines, and we are closely monitoring his condition and praying for his full recovery," Slavin said.

"Although HIPPA law prevents us from releasing personal health information about patients, Jim was willing to let us identify him today because he recognizes by sharing his name and condition, it may encourage others to come forward and get tested," he said. "The point we want to make is we are all at risk for this."

Slavin said that contact tracing has found that none of the people who were exposed to Pruden during the time he may have been contagious have been found to have coronavirus.

"Dr. Pruden's case is indicative of what's happening or will happen at every hospital and medical facility across New Jersey," Slavin said.

Slavin said hospitals are coordinating daily on care and other protocols and that people can help their neighbors and health-care workers by following hygiene care and social distancing.

"It's very clear to us that responding to the spread of COVID-19 will stress our state's health care system," he said. "The pandemic is impacting the capacity of our hospitals to care for the sick, for those who contract the virus as well as those who come to the hospital for other medical needs."

Gov. Phil Murphy said the state was told Thursday night by the U.S. Department of Human Services that a shipment of medical supplies will be arriving in the state within days, including more than 84,000 N95 respirators, 200,000 surgical face masks, 38,000 face shields and other items.

"As this is not remotely the entirety of our ask of the federal government, we hope this is the first of what will be several deliveries," Murphy said.

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Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said hospitals can "hold it together" until that shipment arrives but that several institutions have significant concerns.

"The hospitals are the front lines. They're treating patients who have tested positive, while at the same time dealing with community concerns," she said. "They are prepared to respond to cases at their hospital, but we are concerned right now about the availability of personal protective equipment for their workers. It's running slim. The stockpiles are dwindling."


Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com.

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