On the evening of March 4, Gov. Phil Murphy, Acting Governor Sheila Oliver, and New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli announced the first presumptive cases of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, have been detected in the state.
“Tonight, Acting Governor Sheila Oliver and I are announcing the first presumptive positive case of novel coronavirus, or #COVID19, in New Jersey,” Gov. Murphy said in a statement on social media.
Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver is currently serving as Acting Governor because, earlier on March 4, Gov. Murphy had surgery to remove a potentially cancerous tumor from his left kidney and is recovering at an undisclosed hospital in New York City.
Very little information was released about the patients diagnosed with the first presumptive cases of COVID-19.
“The individual, a male in his 30s, is hospitalized in Bergen County and has been hospitalized since March 3rd,” said Gov. Murphy.
On March 5, Acting Governor Oliver announced a second Bergen County resident test presumptively positive for COVID-19. According to Oliver, the patient is a woman in her 30s with mild symptoms who is being isolated in her home.
A third presumptive positive case of COVID-19 was identified in Camden County on March 6. The patient is a 60-year-old man that has been hospitalized since March 3rd.
Since March 7, three more cases of COVID-19 were confirmed, including a West New York man hospitalized at Hackensack University Medical Center.
There are currently 27 Persons Under Investigation for COVID-19 in New Jersey, pending testing in the state Public Health Environmental Labs, according to a March 8 statement by Gov. Murphy.
The presumptive positive results came from a sample tested by the New Jersey Department of Health (NJ DOH) at the New Jersey Public Health Environmental Laboratories and is now being submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for confirmation.
While waiting for confirmation from the CDC, state and local public health authorities are proceeding with the public health investigation and response activities as if this were a confirmed case.
Gov. Murphy said that safeguarding the public’s health is one of his highest priorities, and his Administration is prepared to respond swiftly to any additional positive cases of COVID-19 in New Jersey.
“My Administration is working aggressively to keep residents safe and contain the spread of COVID-19 in New Jersey,” Murphy said. “We take this situation very seriously and have been preparing for weeks. 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.”
The hospital in Bergen County is working closely with NJ DOH and continues to follow all infectious disease protocols.
Working with the local health department, the NJ DOH is tracing close contacts of the possibly infected individual and is taking appropriate public health actions. The investigation is underway, and more information will be released when it becomes available.
According to Oliver, the state has been coordinating with local governments to investigate and respond to the developing situation.
“Our Administration has been coordinating across all levels of government, and with our federal partners, to ensure that we are active and engaged with preparedness and a response plan,” Oliver said. “We urge all New Jersey residents to follow guidance from the New Jersey Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control to help contain the spread of COVID-19.”
The NJ DOH has been working to prepare for and respond to the evolving COVID-19 situation since early January. Murphy signed an executive order establishing the New Jersey Coronavirus Task Force chaired by Commissioner Persichilli.
“Any case of novel coronavirus in our state is concerning. However, most New Jersey residents are at very low risk of contracting COVID-19,” Persichilli said. “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.”
As part of efforts to prepare for COVID-19, the NJ DOH shared state and CDC guidance with hospitals, local health officials, K-12 schools, universities, and businesses.
This also included the establishment of a novel coronavirus webpage and a call center for the public. The New Jersey Poison Information and Education System partnered with the NJ DOH to set up the hotline at 1-800-222-1222.
The CDC announced that it will provide the state with more than $1 million in funds to help with the COVID-19 response.
“Today, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that the CDC will provide New Jersey with an initial award of $1.75 million for our response to COVID-19,” Oliver said. “We remain in close contact with the White House, CDC, and other federal agencies to ensure that our needs as a state are met as we continue to aggressively prepare and respond to the global spread of COVID-19.”
According to the CDC, the novel coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, has been identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness.
A coronavirus is a type of common virus that can infect the respiratory tract and spread much like cold viruses, according to the Bayonne Department of Health novel coronavirus fact sheet. The new type of coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan, China in December of 2019 is infecting people for the first time, which means people do not have any immunity to it.
It is not clear if the New Jersey patient has traveled to mainland China or any other nations recently affected by COVID-19.
According to the NJ DOH, the virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person, between people who are in close contact with one another.
The virus is also thought to spread via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes that can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
The NJ DOH notes that people could contract COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
For confirmed novel coronavirus infections, reports range from people with few to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying. Symptoms can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
The CDC believes at this time that symptoms of the novel coronavirus may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure.
Recently, the CDC released an update calling the novel coronavirus a “serious public health threat,” recommending“disruptive” preventive measures to curtail the spread of the virus, including school dismissals and social distancing at work or in other settings. Examples include the cancellation of mass gatherings and remote-meeting options in workplaces.
“I urge residents to remain calm,” Murphy said. “The investigation is underway, and more information will be released when it becomes available.”
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.