N.J. now has two patients who tested positive for COVID-19

Mar 5, 2020

A second person in New Jersey has tested positive for novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver confirmed during a press conference Thursday afternoon.

The news came less than 24 hours after Gov. Phil Murphy released a statement announcing the first positive coronavirus case — a man in his 30s from Fort Lee, N.J.

Officials have not released the name of that man, who is resting and doing well at Hackensack University Medical Center in Bergen County, according to Ihor Sawczuk, regional president for the northern market for Hackensack Meridian Health.

Oliver said officials are working closely with partners in New York, where the man works, to identify points of contact.

State officials are still investigating how the second patient, a person who is hospitalized at Englewood Health, contracted coronavirus.

Oliver announced immediate restrictions on all state-related business travel. All international travel is suspended for state employees until further notice, as well as previously planned travel by state employees. All domestic out-out-of-state travel on business must be approved by the Governor’s Office, including short trips to New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and beyond.

“We advise caution of our employees traveling to any area with known impacts of community spread of coronavirus and COVID-19,” Oliver said during the joint press conference with N.J. Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “This case does not come as a surprise. Our state has been prepared for weeks for the eventuality of one of our residents would test positively for coronavirus.”

On Monday, Murphy had a press conference announcing the state’s coronavirus preparedness and rapid response plan. He underwent surgery Wednesday to remove a tumor on his kidney, and Oliver is serving as acting governor while he recuperates.

State epidemiologist Christina Tan said Thursday that the risk still remains low for most New Jersey residents but is slightly higher for people traveling to areas where community-to-community spread is known, such as Washington state and California.

New Jersey has not yet identified cases of it spreading person-to-person within the state. Tan also said the state expects to see more cases of the virus.

There is currently only one certified laboratory, in West Trenton, that has the capability to test for the virus in New Jersey.

Assistant Health Commissioner Chris Neuwirth said the department received additional testing materials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Thursday morning to be ready to test additional patients. The state is testing only patients who meet the CDC’s criteria for persons under investigation and who have been authorized for testing by the CDC.

Neuwirth said it could take up to 72 hours for a patient who arrives at a health care facility to receive the test results, after transportation and associated lab processing times. He added that the Health Department will be sharing guidance with licensed clinical laboratories to establish their own testing abilities.

During the press conference, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal also sent a note of warning to “any business or person that seeks to profit from consumer fears of coronavirus.”

He said the state Division of Consumer Affairs has received multiple reports of price gouging of products ranging from surgical masks to hand sanitizer. Some Amazon retailers are selling a two-pack of Purell hand sanitizer for nearly $70.

Grewal said the state had issued 10 warnings to businesses that are profiting from concerns around coronavirus. Investigators are spot-checking pharmacies and other businesses for price gouging.

“It is simply unconscionable that businesses in our state, including pharmacies, are seeking to profit off the fear of the public in this particular moment,” Grewal said.

Currently, there are no reported positive cases of COVID-19 in Delaware or Pennsylvania. There are currently 22 confirmed cases in New York state.