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May 19, 2020

New Jersey continues expansion of COVID-19 testing across pharmacies

Thousands of licensed pharmacists can now administer coronavirus tests

As COVID-19 testing continues to scale up across New Jersey, the state is utilizing pharmacies as an integral part to expanding capacity. 

More than 18,000 licensed pharmacists across New Jersey have been authorized by Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and the Division of Consumer Affairs to administer coronavirus tests. The tests can be performed at or outside of a registered pharmacy and do not require a prescription. 

Pharmacists can only administer tests that have received an approval or emergency use authorization from the FDA. The initiative will allow thousands of pharmacies across the state to become testing sites and help New Jersey reach its goal of doubling testing capacity by the end of May.

“Widespread testing is a vital component of Governor Murphy’s strategy for reopening New Jersey and we are doing everything we can to facilitate expanded testing,” Grewal said. “With thousands of pharmacists now authorized to administer COVID-19 tests, finding a testing site in New Jersey will be as easy as walking to the corner drug store.” 

By the end of May, CVS Health will offer self-swab tests across the state at a minimum of 50 retail locations, Murphy said on Tuesday. The locations have yet to be announced.

“This is another important step forward as we continue to build testing capacity in our state,” Murphy said.

CVS Health opened five drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites in the Philadelphia region—one in each of the five Southeastern Pennsylvania counties—this past Friday. Additional drive-thru locations are expected to be unveiled later this month.

New Jersey reported 1,055 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, bringing the state’s total number of cases up to 149,013. The state recorded an additional 162 deaths due to COVID-19 on Tuesday, increasing the statewide death toll due to the virus up to 10,586.

South Jersey has had 16,164 confirmed coronavirus cases and 891 deaths due to COVID-19.

New Jersey issues guidance for elective surgeries to resume

The New Jersey Department of Health issued guidance on Tuesday to allow for elective and non-urgent surgeries to resume in hospitals and surgery centers.

Scheduling of procedures must be done that adheres to social distancing guidelines, including minimizing time in waiting areas, staging appointment hours, and posting signs at entrances about symptoms and precautions.

Patients are required to be tested for COVID-19 and self-quarantine before having surgery done, and facilities must have a process to screen patients for COVID-19 prior to scheduled procedures. Surgeries should not be performed on patients who tested positive for coronavirus.

Hospitals and surgery centers must comply with state and CDC guidelines to mitigate further spread of the virus, implement screening off staff for COVID-19, remove symptomatic employees, enforce social distancing in work and common areas, and require patients to wear face coverings. 

All facilities must be cleaned and disinfected prior to being used for a procedure, and medical surgical, ICU, and critical care beds must be made available. Additionally, each facility must develop a plan for patient and staff use of available PPE.

Hospitals can perform elective surgeries if they have a sustained downward trajectory for 14 days of a number of public health indicators—including COVID-19 infection rates, hospitalizations, emergency room admissions, and ventilator use.

No visitors are permitted, unless it is for labor and delivery or a pediatric procedure. 

“Hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers are encouraged to gradually resume full scope of services when possible and safe to do so consistent with the Department’s guidance,” said New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli. “This is an important step forward for individuals who are battling an illness or are dealing with chronic pain as these surgeries are vital to their health and well-being.”

Murphy signed an executive order this past Friday to permit elective surgeries and invasive procedures, both medical and dental, to resume next Tuesday.

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