Murphy in Ocean County to discuss outbreak

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Gov. Phil Murphy during an outdoor event during the summer. COURTESY OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR

BAYVILLE – New pop-up COVID-19 testing centers will open next week at the BlueClaws’ FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood and at Lakewood High School to help deal with an outbreak in that township, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Friday.

Gov. Murphy and state officials gathered together with representatives of Ocean County and  Lakewood at a press conference held outdoors at Ocean County Airport.

Besides the outbreak in Lakewood, the governor also spoke about the visit to Bedminster on Thursday by President Donald Trump, who announced Friday that he and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for the virus.

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Lakewood community representatives thanked the governor for the state’s assistance in dealing with the outbreak, and said they have been active in ramping up testing and public awareness campaigns.

From Sept. 24 to 30, there were 1,214 new COVID-19 cases reported in Ocean County, with 840 of those cases in Lakewood, state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said.

Of the total 796 new cases reported Friday in New Jersey, 190 are in Ocean County, and 126 of those are in Lakewood, with about one third of the cases among those in the 18-29 and 30-49 age groups, she said.

She noted that while the current statewide positivity rate is 2.4 percent, the rate in Ocean County is 15.9 percent, and in Lakewood it’s 27.8 percent.

“There is not a single event that is associated with the increase in COVID cases, but there have been large religious observances over the past several weeks that may have resulted in prolonged, close contact,” she said, “and there have been reports of some large gatherings, weddings and funerals where social distancing and wearing masks may not have been consistently followed.” 

The Jewish High Holy Days were observed in late September among Jewish residents in Lakewood, which has a population of over 100,000.

The state health department has sent more than 6,000 testing kits to Lakewood, deployed two nurses to the Chemed Health Center there. She said the state also has redeployed more than 20 contact tracers to Ocean County. 

“It is vital to share your contacts if you have tested positive for the virus. Please take the call,” she said. 

Ms. Persichilli said Vault Health was testing for the virus on Friday at a pop-up center in a municipal lot, and also would be there on Monday and Tuesday. 

Testing also will start next week at the BlueClaws stadium and at Lakewood High School, she said.

Ms. Persichilli also gave advice for households to protect against infection.

“Many households in Lakewood are large and multi-generational, which makes home isolation and quarantine very difficult …  Persons who are sick should remain in a separate bedroom and stay away from anyone who is not exhibiting illness … and should not eat meals with others in the  household,” she said. “If a family member has an underlying condition, please keep them safe. Consider having them quarantine at a nearby alternate site away from the sick individual.”

State Sen. Robert Singer, a Lakewood resident, said, “The medical community in Lakewood has … reached out to the community to let them know … they have to do the social distancing and wear masks. The rabbis have come out and made it very clear that certainly in public places you should be wearing masks and social distancing. And each individual rabbi has talked to his congregation, which is the best way to get the word out.”

Sen. Singer said Lakewood residents are lined up at testing sites early every morning. “They  understand the importance of the testing,” he said.

Rabbi Avi Schnall, director of the New Jersey Office of Agudath Israel of America in Lakewood, said, praised the Murphy administration for the assistance the town has received since the outbreak. 

He said the rabbinical leadership in Lakewood had a conference call on Thursday with Commissioner Persichilli and later more than 100 synagogue rabbis throughout New Jersey, “giving over the message: We need to test, we need to be vigilant, we need to wear masks, we need to practice social distancing.”

He noted that the Lakewood synagogues have set up tents so that people can gather outside while social distancing. 

“We’re going to get there, we’re going to conquer this,” Rabbi Schnall said.

Trump visit to Bedminster

Gov. Phil Murphy released a statement Friday regarding President Donald Trump’s announcement that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for COVID-19, the day after he spent an afternoon at a campaign fundraiser at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey.

“Tammy and I send our best wishes to President Trump and first lady Melania Trump for a speedy and complete return to good health,” Gov. Murphy said. “If there is one thing we have learned in New Jersey over these months, it’s that we pull together and support everyone fighting this virus.”

“The contact-tracing process is underway. We urge everyone who attended yesterday’s event in Bedminster to take full precautions, including self-quarantining and getting tested,” Gov. Murphy said.

On Thursday afternoon, President Trump spent about three hours at the Trump National Golf Course in Bedminster, where he held a roundtable with supporters and later mingled and posed for photos with donors. 

Ms. Persichilli said state health officials have been in contact with Trump administration officials regarding the event.

“If you attended the event, please feel free to contact your local health department if you have any questions….Most importantly, if you feel ill, get tested,” she said. 

Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday that New Jersey will receive 2.6 million COVID-19 rapid-response antigen tests from the federal government, with the first 170,000 expected to arrive in the next few weeks.

 “This could be a game changer,” he said, adding that the increased, widespread testing capability would be “a big weapon in schools.”

The new, less expensive Abbott Laboratory antigen tests use a credit-card-size device to test a nasal swab sample, and give results at a testing center in about 15 minutes, without having to be sent to a laboratory.

But the antigen tests, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, may result in false negatives and more likely to miss an active infection than the PCR [polymerase chain reaction] test, which the Centers for Disease Control considers to be the gold standard and is the more common type of COVID-19 testing.

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