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Bergen County Closes Public School as State Warns Against Public Gatherings

As the total of residents testing positive for the coronavirus continues to climb, New Jersey is recommending the cancellation of large public events and a North Jersey county will close its public schools. 

Meanwhile, a local health network received approval to begin using a newly developed rapid response test for the coronavirus.

Gov. Phil Murphy release a statement before the state’s daily update that based on guidance from the Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli, the state recommends the cancellation of all public gatherings throughout New Jersey of more than 250 individuals, including concerts, sporting events and parades. 

Social Distancing

“These measures are being taken as part of our coordinated response to the continued outbreak and to aggressively mitigate the spread of the virus,” said Murphy. “Our frontline efforts right now must be to aggressively mitigate the potential for exposure and further spread. We are taking this step because social distancing works. It is our best chance to ‘flatten the curve’ and mitigate the chance of rapid spread, so we can respond to this public health emergency in an even more focused manner.”

Meanwhile, Bergen County Executive James Tedesco shut down schools in 75 districts effective 3 pm March 13. The school districts, totaling approximately 170,000 students, and 16,0000 teachers, will use online learning in an effort to stave off the growing coronavirus pandemic, said Tedesco. No reopening date was given.

20 Ferris Students

By closing the schools now, the county is attempting to avoid a situation like the one occurring in Hudson County, where 20 seniors at Ferris High School are self-quarantining after possibly being exposed to the novel coronavirus at their internship in Jersey City, Superintendent Franklin Walker reported.

The students are interning at Pershing LLC, where an employee has tested presumptive positive for COVID-19. Six of the 20 students, are part of a co-op program that allows them to attend classes during the day and spend the afternoon working in the office for credit.  worked on the same floor as the man.

New Jersey now has 29 total coronavirus cases as of 9 pm March 12, rising by six from the day before. Bergen County has the most cases with 13. 

By the Numbers

According to the Department of Health, there were 103 completed coronavirus tests in the state: 74 were negative results, 29 are presumptive positives, with 1 death, and 0 confirmed The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cases. Twenty tests are being processed and 37 individuals are under investigation.

The six new cases include four from North Jersey:

  • A 16-year-old girl from Englewood. This positive test was performed through Labcorp, rather than at the state lab. She is being treated at Englewood hospital.
  • A 66-year-old woman from Montclair. She is hospitalized at Hackensack Meridian Mountainside Medical Center.
  • A 51-year-old man from Butler. He is being treated at Chilton Medical Center in Pompton Plains.
  • A woman, age unknown, from Teaneck. She was exposed to a confirmed case at a synagogue carnival on March 1.

The other two cases were of a  23-year-old man from Bridgewater and a  53-year-old man from Manalapan. 

The new positive tests include the first cases for Somerset, Essex and Morris counties. New Jersey now has coronavirus cases in 11 of 21 counties. As a result of the virus spreading, “We’re beginning to assign risk counties,” Persichilli said.

County Risk Rankings

In North Jersey, Bergen is considered a moderate risk, while Hudson, Passaic, Union, Essex, Morris and Somerset had  a minimal risk factor with each only having one positive test. The state has set up a dashboard that breaks down the cases by county as well as calls the hotline has received.

“Overall in New Jersey we believe the risk is still low,” the commissioner said.

While the risk may be low, The Rabbinical Council of Bergen County still decided to close all of its synagogues and recommended against any social gatherings in its community. 

Synagogues Closed

The council announced that its 28 synagogues would close starting March 13, along with recommending against any gatherings, such as play dates and sitting shiva.

Additionally, the council recommended any kosher restaurants not seat customers and anyone in the community should order delivery or takeout. It also dissuaded community members from having Shabbat gatherings.

Test Approved

Hackensack Meridian Health announced researchers at its Center for Discovery and Innovation recieved approval to begin using a newly developed rapid response test for the coronavirus.

The new tests will return results within hours, according to the health network. The coronavirus tests currently used New Jersey’s Public Health and Environmental Laboratories and private companies take between one and two days to determine results.

Initially, Hackensack Meridian Health’s network of 17 hospitals in New Jersey will be able to test 24 patients every eight hours, with those showing severe symptoms prioritized for the new tests.

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