Jersey City will now offer COVID-19 testing at eight locations in partnership with various special improvement districts as residents gear up for the holiday season and potential COVID-19 exposure.
Mayor Steven Fulop, Director of Health and Human Services Stacey Flanagan, and Public Safety Director James Shae made the announcement at a press conference outside a new mobile testing site near Journal Square on Nov. 19 as the city continues to see positive cases rise.
“At the end of the day we are realistic that despite guidelines at the state level people will do what people will do and more than likely they will be inviting family members and friends into their households at a larger number than the state guidelines, and it’s important that we are realistic about that,” Fulop said.
So far the city has done more than 70,000 tests, not including private testing, and now every neighborhood will have a testing site through the holiday season until at least the end of the year, according to Fulop.
“Today is really a public request asking every single resident to take advantage of those eight locations, one in every single neighborhood in the city,” Fulop said. “Please come and get tested, so we can make sure that you and your family are safe.”
Flanagan said the city will expand hours and days of testing sites. Some areas will offer rapid 15-minute tests and 24-hour saliva tests.
“When there is an uptick in a particular community, whether it be a school or religious group that has called us over the last several weeks, we can schedule a test quite rapidly and get results overnight,” she said.
In Jersey City, 143 new cases were reported on Nov. 18, over five times more than the 26 new cases reported on Oct. 18.
In the past month, the city has seen a little more than 1,000 new cases, but this is not yet near the peak the city saw in April and May, which reached approximately 3,500 cases each month, according to Flanagan.
She noted in April the city saw about 10 to 40 deaths per day, and now the city has seen about six deaths since the start of November.
Fulop said that relative to the population in the county, COVID-19 statistics have been lower than expected in Jersey City.
According to Jersey City’s COVID-19 dashboard, as of Nov. 18 the city has had 9,053 confirmed cases and 553 deaths, since the start of the pandemic.
“We are starting to see less people comply with contact tracing, so about a month ago we had about 62 percent compliance, and now we have somewhere around 52 percent compliance,” Flanaga said, adding “several individuals feeling that they don’t want to ‘rat out their friends.’”
She said contact tracing shows that positive cases have been coming from three sources: residents shopping in large stores outside of Jersey City, travel on public transportation, and workplaces that are not necessarily in Jersey City but where local residents work.
Fulop said another issue is the speed at which the city gets new data from the state.
“That’s why when you look at city trends overall you’ll see some days where there’s a huge increase in numbers, and it’s not necessarily that day had a significant increase; it’s that the data that was put in from doctors or the state was all lumped together for one week, and it makes it very, very difficult from a city policy standpoint to monitor that and put good policies in place,” Fulop said.
Shea said that law enforcement will continue to enforce COVID-19 guidelines through an education-first model.
“From the beginning of our fight against COVID in Jersey City, we took the idea that rather than an enforcement model in forcing people to behave a certain way, we would trust our citizenry and go with an educational model and cooperative model,” he said, noting that the majority of residents have been cooperative.
He noted that residents need to continue to do their part as the city enters “a couple of dangerous months” with the holidays giving people a reason to gather, young adults returning from college campuses, and colder weather forcing people indoors.
He said if police are called to a gathering, they will continue to provide education first, talk to those in attendance, explain the dangers, provide personal protective equipment, try to bring the gathering into compliance, and “only if people are completely not willing to follow our advice will we go to an enforcement model.”
“By in large we’ve tried our best to preach personal responsibility,” Fulop said. “We’ve put in place a lot of tools for people to get tested to have resources so they can be safe.”
He noted the roughly a million masks the city is sending to residents in the mail as one such tool.
Testing sites and hours
The city offers freee testing for residents and local business employees with proof of employment or residency at all testing sites.
Monday through Saturday testing takes place via nasal swab at Public Safety Headquarters at 465 Marin Blvd.
Testing takes place Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Prestige Health Mobile Clinics at the Journal Square Special Improvement District near Bergen Ave. and Sip Ave., The Westside Avenue Special Improvement District at 754 West Side Ave., and the Historic Downtown Special Improvement District at 332 Barrow St.
Next week a testing location in the Central Avenue Special Improvement District will open.
On Mondays and Wednesdays the city has popup testing sites at local housing authority locations. It offers the saliva test at the Bethune Center at 140 MLK Blvd. from 1 to 7 p.m. United Way at 857 Bergen Ave. offers rapid 15-minute testing from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.