To reopen NJ, Murphy says we need faster, widespread testing
As Gov. Phil Murphy continues to work on a plan to begin to re-open the New Jersey economy, he continues to stress the necessity of expanded testing with much quicker results, in order for re-opening to move forward.
During his daily COVID-19 update in Trenton on Monday, Murphy said he’s encouraged by ongoing efforts to increase testing, noting partnerships have been forged with both Abbott labs and Rutgers University, two entities working on dramatically quicker testing methods.
Murphy stressed quicker, more readily available testing will be needed to give consumers the confidence “to get back in the water, as they say.”
“Numbers you hear, at least 15,000 to 20,000 (tests) a day — that would be at least double what we’ve got now, but probably far more importantly is tests you get back within 24 hours," Murphy said.
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He said along with quicker expanded testing, we will need “contact tracing infrastructure as well. It’s not just that you test, but what do you do if you’ve largely eliminated community spread and then you see a flare-up — you want to know that quickly, and then, what are you going to do about it?”
The governor said contract tracing will allow those who have been exposed to the novel coronavirus after the re-opening has begun to be quickly identified so they can be isolated and quarantined.
Murphy said his stay-at-home directive remains in place for now because of the high number of positive COVID-19 tests — thousands more cases are counted every day — and the time it’s taking, about a week on average, to get the results. Only 7,000 to 9,000 tests a day are being performed.
“Right from the beginning we just haven’t had the national testing supplies that we need to do universal testing, which continues to be our objective," Murphy said.
When the COVID-19 crisis began in early March, local health departments in New Jersey were doing all contact tracing. But moving forward, Murphy said, the Centers for Disease Control will put in place 10-plus individuals to help each state's effort.
Murphy said that’s a good first step, but much more assistance will be needed from the federal government on this front.
When the governor. was asked when he thinks widespread, rapid testing might be available in New Jersey, he said “in my opinion we’ve got to be in a completely different place in the next 4 to 6 weeks.”
While more widespread testing could become a reality in the Garden State starting in late May, State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said “you’ll see us roll out some testing of vulnerable populations over a shorter period of time to see how we do with it. That will be started within the next 2 weeks.”
Benchmarks for reopening NJ's economy
As the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in New Jersey continues to decline, Murphy said he'll be announcing initial plans for opening New Jersey's economy " in the coming days."
"I will announce the benchmarks we will need to see and the principles which we will follow to begin to re-open our state and begin our re-emergence from this pandemic," Murphy said.
He said a "blueprint" could be coming by the end of this week.,
“However do not think for one minute that we are going to be able to flip a switch and return to life as we knew it," Murphy said. We will be careful and we will be strategic.”
Opening too early, too quickly could lead to a "boomerang" wave of coronavirus cases, Murphy warned.
He stressed opening the economy right now would result in “a large spike in COVID-19 cases and no customers at our stores because people are still fearful for their health.”
He said as this blueprint takes shape “there is one overriding principal — personal health creates economic health.”
As for those who are suggesting we should reopen right now?
“While I respect their right to protest, I wish they would do it virtually at home," Murphy said. "And No. 2, I literally don’t agree with them. ... The facts are overwhelmingly on the side of doing what we’re doing. Again, that won’t last forever.”
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com