Up to 250 Jersey City residents per day will be able to get tested for Coronavirus now that Jersey City officially opened two testing sites on March 27.
“We decided to do these sites because truthfully we were struggling with the number of testing that was happening in the state and Hudson County, and we felt that Jersey City needed to have its own testing sites,” said Mayor Steven Fulop.
“The site in Secaucus is well-intentioned but it doesn’t really help the people on this side of the county where we have the biggest density populations and a lot of people don’t have cars, to be honest with you, so we thought it was counterproductive for us to push them onto public transportation to get to Secaucus.”
One site is a drive-thru in the southwest section of Jersey City outside of the former DPW complex, at 575 NJ-440. The drive-thru allows residents to drive up and show proof of address, before being swabbed and driving away.
The second location on the east side is a walk-up site with an expedited process out of the Public Safety Headquarters building at 465 Marin Boulevard.
Any resident who has been exposed to the virus and is exhibiting symptoms – dry cough, fever, or shortness of breath – must call the COVID Call Center at 201-547-5535 to make an appointment.
Both sites will follow an appointment-only system with proof of address (a recent phone, electric, or gas bill) upon arrival.
According to Director of Health and Human Services Stacey Flanagan, priority is being given to health care workers and senior citizens.
At the walk in site, those who need to be tested are guided through a line, six feet apart, one at a time to a tent where their temperature is taken and they are swabbed for the test.
That test is then labeled and refrigerated on site before it is driven to the lab for testing at the end of the day.
Flanagan said the tests are expected to have a quick turn around with results estimated to be back in three days.
Both testing sites and the Call Center will be open seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Jersey City has 162 confirmed cases as of March 27, which will increase because of the additional testing sites.
Fulop said on March 26 that the city received more than 500 calls from residents looking to book an appointment to be tested.
According to Fulop, the contract with BioReference Laboratories for the tests is $750,000, but the test is free for residents.
He said the $750,000 is not included in the $70 million budget gap the city currently estimates due to loss of revenue and emergency spending because of the pandemic but that the city will seek to have the cost of the tests reimbursed by the state.
“I mentioned yesterday, that we have a $70 million budget gap, so every dollar matters and we’re likely to do layoffs at the end of the year or at least we are going to explore it,” Fulop said. “Government isn’t immune from this.”
Fulop said that the hope is to get more tests in the future and make tests available to both Bayonne and Hoboken residents. The city would pass the corresponding fees through to those municipalities.
Local hospital needs
Fulop said that Christ Hospital will run out of some personal protective equipment in two days, Jersey City Medical Center is currently using two-thirds of its ventilators.
“We had our daily call with Christ Hospital, and to give you a little perspective, they only have two days’ worth of facial masks left,” Fulop said. “They have 67 individuals in the hospital who are likely COVID-positive, they have two ventilators left, and they have 1,000 testing kits arriving this weekend.”
He said Alaris Health has offered the city 20 ventilators to help prepare for the surge of patients.
He said the city is exploring a plan with Christ Hospital “to have one central location with all the professionals focused specifically on COVID-19 to combine resources as opposed to having people going to Bayonne, Hoboken, and Christ.”
He said an application has been sent to the governor’s office regarding the plan, and they are awaiting feedback.