Governor Murphy Tours Federal COVID-19 Surge Testing Site


Press Pool Coverage: Governor Murphy Tours Federal COVID-19 Surge Testing Site

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — As the omicron variant’s surge continues, New Jersey’s newest federal testing facility less than a mile from Stockton University’s main campus could provide up to 1,000 COVID-19 tests per day, state officials said Wednesday.

The new site, at the university’s Chris Guapp Residence Hall on Chris Guapp Drive, is the second the Garden State has opened with the help of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Sites like this behind me are how we get ahead of COVID so we can return our state and our communities to a much-need sense of normal,” Gov. Phil Murphy said after touring the makeshift facility Wednesday morning.

The first collaborative testing effort was opened on New Year’s Eve in East Orange, Essex County.

Appointments are not required, but county officials suggest that those wanting to be tested preregister to limit the chances of backups.

Tests at Stockton’s building, provided by eTrueNorth, will be free to the public since they’re covered by state and federal tax dollars.

Workers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency Corps will be stationed at the facility seven days per week. Once someone seeking a test arrives and parks, signs outside direct the person to the testing rooms, where FEMA workers are ready.

“Testing has been, and continues to be, one of our strongest mitigation strategies in reducing the spread of COVID-19,” state Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said.

New Jersey has partnered with Vault Health to distribute free, at-home PCR tests. Results are intended to be returned within 24 to 48 hours, but that hasn’t been the case for several weeks because of illnesses in the medical company’s workforce. Those issues, Persichilli said, are expected to be corrected.

After the state and federal government opened a makeshift COVID-19 testing site in North Jersey to handle a swarm of patients seeking tests due to the rapid spread of the omicron variant, one was needed down south, officials said. Stockton University and Atlantic County stepped up and jointly agreed to place the site within a mile of the school.

New Jersey State Police Commissioner Col. Patrick Callahan heralded the new site, a joint effort between state, federal and county officials. He said having a surge testing site in South Jersey is vital for confronting the COVID-19 pandemic and its recent challenges, especially given a lack of at-home tests.

“With every challenge that comes up, we put our heads together, regardless of what patch we wear on our shirt,” Callahan said, thanking Stockton University for hosting the site.

The site’s opening happened on a day where New Jersey reported over 8,000 new positive PCR tests and 145 deaths. Daily caseloads are trending downward in the omicron surge, as many health experts predicted.

That isn’t stopping the governor from taking additional steps to counter the prolonged pandemic, specifically with people prolonging becoming COVID-immunized.

Thousands working in health care, jails and long-term care facilities will now be required to update their COVID-19 vaccinations under an executive order Murphy announced after touring the new Galloway facility.

The update includes having a booster shot. A test-out option will not be possible under the new rule. Anyone found to be not in compliance will be subject to disciplinary measures with their employer, including termination, Murphy said.

“We are no longer going to look past those who continue to put their colleagues and, perhaps I think even more importantly, those who are their responsibility in danger of COVID,” Murphy said.

Through the order, unvaccinated health care workers will have until Jan. 27 to get their first shot, followed by Feb. 28 to complete their primary immunization course.

Employees in high-risk congregate settings will be required to get their first shot by Feb. 28 and finish their course by March 30.

“We believe this is where our risks are the highest,” Murphy said, adding that his administration doesn’t have plans to include booster mandates for other essential workers like teachers and state employees.

Eric Conklin

The Press of Atlantic City

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