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North Bergen mandates COVID-19 testing for first responders

13 police officers have tested positive for the virus during the pandemic

First responders have been among the hardest hit groups amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as workers on the frontlines contract the virus while fighting to keep patients alive.

While initially scarce, testing for the virus has expanded across Hudson County as testing kits become more available. Among those included in the first waves of mandated testing are the first responders in the trenches of the war against COVID-19.

The Township of North Bergen announced on April 24 that the North Bergen Police Department, Emergency Medical Services, and all other frontline employees will be tested for COVID-19.

The rapid tests will enable township officials to make necessary decisions to better serve residents, regarding workers on the frontlines. These tests are being administered to ensure those interacting with the public are COVID-19 free to protect the health of residents, according to the township.

The COVID-19 test also tests for antibodies, which may be the key to finding a cure for the virus. The antibodies found in the plasma of virus survivors may provide scientists with what they need to develop a cure or vaccine.

“The individuals dealing with the general public must be COVID-19 free to ensure the safety of our residents,” said Mayor Nicholas Sacco. “Knowing that our front line personnel are free of this deadly virus enables us to better allocate resources and personnel to maintain services and do so in a safe and responsible manner.”

Testing at North Bergen Recreation Center

The tests will be administered to EMS, police, firefighters and other township front line personnel at the North Bergen Recreation Center at 6300 Meadowview Ave.

During the testing, all front line responders will be required to wear proper personal protective equipment and adhere to strict distancing guidelines to prevent the further spread of the virus.

The North Bergen Police Department has had a total of 13 officers test positive since the onset of the pandemic, with 8 officers being cleared to return to work.

This follows North Bergen’s previous move to make testing more available to those most vulnerable to COVID-19. Recently, the township announced it would be testing 100 percent of all local nursing homes after the death toll figures show that an overwhelming majority of victims lived at one of the three facilities in North Bergen.

Out of the 110 residents who passed away, 66 were elderly residents living at nursing homes.

North Bergen has taken numerous other actions at the direction of public health officials to limit the spread of the virus, all of which are accessible to residents on the township website’s dedicated COVID-19 Updates pages in both English and Spanish.

Residents should also follow the township’s social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, which are updated multiple times per day.

For more information, residents can call the NJ COVID-19 Hotline at 1-800-222-1222 or visit covid19.nj.gov.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.