April 23, 2020
Residents and staffers at New Jersey's five developmental centers for adults with intellectual disabilities will be tested for COVID-19 using a saliva-based test developed by Rutgers University.
Beginning next week, more than 5,500 tests will be made available to the 1,250 residents and 4,300 staffers who live and work at these state-run facilities, Gov. Phil Murphy said during his daily briefing Thursday. State officials also are working to expand the testing system to others state workers and vulnerable individuals.
There have been 165 confirmed COVID-19 cases and four deaths across the state’s developmental centers as of Thursday afternoon. Murphy praised the staffers for their dedication during the crisis.
"These doctors, nurses, direct care staff, food service providers, housekeeping staff and many others are doing an extraordinary job and are making a difference in the lives of so many who have no other place to turn," Murphy said. "Sadly, we have seen this virus in all of our centers. We owe our residents and staff our best, and testing will help us best serve them.”
Rutgers’ saliva-based testing system already has been implemented in the health care systems and at several drive-thru testing sites catering to first responders, including one in Deptford, Gloucester County.
The test relies on samples collected by people spitting into tubes, which is a safer form of screening for health care providers who now administer nasal swabs, which are in limited supply.
Scientists at Rutgers partnered with Accurate Diagnostic Labs to develop the test, and some of the world's largest life sciences companies and laboratories have reached out to Rutgers about the test and expanding capacity of it across the country.
The saliva test could scale up to tens of thousands of samples daily across the United States with the help of automated lab technology that can rapidly process results.
New Jersey has administered the fourth-highest number of COVID-19 tests in the country. But it will need to double its testing capacity before it can consider reopening its economy, Murphy said.
He also reiterated that sufficient testing must be in place before the implementation of any contact tracing program, regardless of whether it is focused solely on New Jersey or operating on a regional basis. New Jersey currently has 86 public and private COVID-19 testing sites across the state.
“A robust and aggressive testing program is vital in order for us to protect our most vulnerable populations and contain future outbreaks of COVID-19,” Murphy said. “Rutgers University’s FDA-approved saliva-based test system will significantly expand our testing capability by providing rapid results and the critical data necessary to determine when we can safely reopen New Jersey."
State officials reported an additional 4,287 confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the state's total to 99,989 as of Thursday afternoon. There have now been 5,368 deaths due to COVID-19.
There have been 6,919 cases and 267 deaths due to COVID-19 in South Jersey.