UPDATE: Officials said late Saturday that the patient who was in isolation because of potential coronavirus symptoms tested negative.


HOLMDEL — A suspected case of novel coronavirus is being treated at a Monmouth County hospital, according to an official at Hackensack Meridian Health Bayshore Medical Center.

No cases of coronavirus have been diagnosed in New Jersey. By contrast, the state has reported two pediatric deaths from influenza since October and between 4 to 6% of all weekly deaths this season have been attributed to the flu or pneumonia.

On Saturday, health officials in Washington state announced the first reported death from the new coronavirus. The White House on Saturday also announced a travel ban with Iran and warned against travel to Italy and South Korea.

In the United States, dozens of cases have been confirmed, an amount that is considered small.

The outbreak of novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has infected more that 85,000 people around the world, mostly in the mainland China province of Hubei, where more than 79,000 cases have been diagnosed and 2,835 deaths have been reported, according to the World Heath Organization.

In China, most of the deaths were among people older than 70 and who had cardiovascular disease or diabetes.

Hackensack Meridian Health said Bayshore Medical Center was keeping the patient in isolation and following CDC protocol by using dedicated equipment, restricting visitors and managing and disposing of materials used in the patient's treatment.

Chief Physician Executive Daniel W. Varga said Saturday that the hospital system is screening patients "with appropriate symptoms" such as fever, cough and shortness of breath, for travel history to China, Italy, Iran, Japan and South Korea, which have had outbreaks of the virus.

"Hackensack Meridian Health is routinely engaged in emergency management practices and prepared to manage suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19. We are dedicated to the care and well-being of communities. We will continue to keep you informed," Varga said.

In an email to staff at Bayshore Medical Center in Holmdel, Dr. Jerry M. Zuckerman, vice president of infection prevention and control, said that "our health care team is taking every precaution in caring for this isolated patient and determining an accurate diagnosis," according to the Asbury Park Press.

Public safety officials in the neighboring township of Marlboro sent residents a message Saturday saying that no confirmed cases had been reported and provided the same guidance that government health officials have been telling the public: avoid contact with sick people, wash hands with soap frequently and stay at home when ill.

New Jersey has had several suspected cases in recent weeks, all of which turned out to be false alarms.

The news come as the state Department of Health received permission on Friday to test for the novel coronavirus at the New Jersey Public Health Environmental Laboratories in West Trenton. Previously only the CDC could conduct the test at its labs.

Testing will only be conducted with public health approval on specimens from individuals that meet CDC criteria for a person under investigation for COVID-19, according to the Department of Health. The CDC will perform additional testing to confirm any positive results, which is a requirement of the FDA Emergency Use Authorization.

Representatives of Hackensack Meridian Health Bayshore Medical Center and state health officials did not immediately return requests seeking comment on Saturday morning.

While no cases of the new coronavirus have been diagnosed in New Jersey, residents and authorities have been taking precautions.

Thirteen Ocean County residents who traveled to China and other countries where the illness had been diagnosed placed themselves in quarantine in mid-February at the request of the county health department. County spokesman Dan Regyne told New Jersey 101.5 that none of the residents showed signs of the virus. The last of the self quarantines will end this weekend.

After Royal Caribbean cruise ship Anthem of the Seas docked in Bayonne on Feb. 9, 27 passengers were screened and cleared.

The CDC said that the new coronavirus is a new illness and is still being studied. Researchers believe that symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death.

Symptoms can include:

  • fever
  • cough
  • shortness of breath

The state Department of Health said that the public can take several steps to help keep the risk of contracting the new coronavirus low in the United States including:

Wash hands often with soap and water. If not available, use hand sanitizer.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home while you are sick and avoid contact with others
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing

Wall Street had its worst week since October 2008 over fears about the coronavirus.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been updated numerous times to reflect breaking news.

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

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