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How is New Jersey increasing access to COVID-19 testing?
Expanding access to COVID-19 testing is a core principle of New Jersey's recovery plan for promoting public health and restoring economic health. New Jersey is:
- increasing diagnostic testing capacity;
- ensuring testing for health care workers, essential personnel, and vulnerable populations;
- creating a flexible testing plan accessible to all residents;
- expanding partnerships with institutions of higher education, private-sector labs, and the federal government; and
- ensuring that those who test positive are linked to a health care provider.
New Jersey set a goal to double testing capacity to at least 20,000 tests per day by the end of May and a minimum of 25,000 tests daily by the end of June 2020. As of November 12, 2020 the State has increased testing capacity to approximately 45,000 per day.
Making Testing Available to All Residents
Testing is available to everyone in New Jersey. Anyone who wants a COVID-19 diagnostic test can now get one at any of the 400+ testing sites across New Jersey.
To help increase testing capacity, the State has authorized the more than 18,000 licensed pharmacists in New Jersey to administer FDA-approved or authorized COVID-19 tests to their customers. The Department of Health has also issued a standing order allowing New Jersey residents to get tested for COVID-19 without a prescription.
You can now get tested for COVID-19 at many pharmacies across New Jersey as well as health care facilities and locations set up by counties and cities. To find a testing site near you, visit covid19.nj.gov/testing
Note: Some testing sites require an appointment in advance. Please check with a testing site before going to see what their hours and requirements are.
Increasing Laboratory Processing Capacity
Due to a surge in COVID-19 cases in other states that is causing backlogs in laboratories that process COVID-19 diagnostic tests across the nation, the State of New Jersey is working to increase laboratory capacity within the Garden State to ensure tests are rapidly processed.
In late July of 2020, the Department of Health issued a Request for Proposals to fund hospital laboratories to increase COVID-19 testing capacity and availability. These grant funds will also strengthen and upgrade the existing healthcare laboratory system resources for infectious disease testing.
The total funding for this initiative is $94 million. Applications for funding were due on August 9, 2020. Awards are expected to be announced in early September.
Testing Vulnerable Populations, Health Care Workers, and Essential Personnel
New Jersey has ensured access to testing for vulnerable populations, including residents in long-term care facilities and developmental centers, individuals in the corrections system, those in homeless shelters, patients in psychiatric hospitals, and seasonal farmworkers. The State testing program will also ensure ready access for frontline health care workers, first responders, and transit workers.
- The State developed a comprehensive testing plan for residents and staff at long-term care facilities. Baseline testing was completed for all residents and staff by the end of May and retesting continues for residents and staff who have tested negative. As of July 22, 2020, 232,000 tests have been completed on residents and 367,000 tests for staff.
- The Department of Corrections has completed universal baseline testing of staff, inmates, and residents at all Corrections Facilities, Residential Release Programs, and Assessment Centers.
- All residents in the State's Developmental Centers have been tested and all staff are expected to be tested soon.
- Universal baseline testing of all residents and staff has been completed at State Veterans Homes– Paramus, Menlo Park, and Vineland.
- As of June 5, 2020 universal testing of patients at State Psychiatric Hospitals has been completed and universal testing of staff is underway.
- Since May of 2020, the Departments of Health, Labor, and Agriculture along with Federally Qualified Health Centers have been working with farms across the state to conduct ongoing tests of seasonal farm workers throughout the growing season. As of August 12, 2020, more than 4,780 workers have been tested.
- New Jersey has deployed mobile testing units to directly serve communities of color, the homeless, senior housing facilities, and underserved residents, and opened testing sites within institutions of faith.
- Ensuring access to COVID-19 testing for all NJ TRANSIT employees.
Partnering with Institutions of Higher Education, Private-Sector Labs, and the Federal Government
New Jersey is partnering with federal partners, private labs, and with universities.
In November 2020, the Governor announced that New Jersey was one of the first states selected by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services to receive a new rapid molecular test developed by Cue Health. The test has shown to produce results with 99% accuracy in approximately 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in late September of 2020, the Governor announced New Jersey would receive 2.6 million BinaxNOW rapid COVID-19 antigen tests that can provide results in 15 minutes from the federal government.
Additionally, Rutgers University has developed a new saliva-based testing system. On May 7, 2020, the FDA approved the test for at-home saliva collection. The State is directing $6 million in federal funding to Rutgers to boost their test production capabilities from 10,000 tests per day to 50,000 per day.
The State is also partnering with the private sector to increase the availability of COVID-19 testing in New Jersey. Testing for COVID-19 is being performed in the state by both LabCorp and BioReference Laboratories, enhancing access to testing for state residents.
On April 30, 2020 the State announced it would receive 550,000 new COVID-19 test kits and 750,000 swabs from the federal government.
Previously, the State announced the acquisition of 15 point-of-care Abbot ID NOW testing instruments from the federal government to expand access to COVID-19 testing in New Jersey. The portable, rapid testing machines will be dispersed to health care systems throughout the state and are able to test for COVID-19 and process specimens in approximately 5-13 minutes.
Source: Governor's Remarks; http://d31hzlhk6di2h5.cloudfront.net/20200427/db/2d/77/6c/2a8a498ff2edda855c3f456d/The_Road_Back_-_Restoring_Economic_Health_Through_Public_Health.pdf; https://www.nj.gov/governor/news/news/562020/approved/20200512a.shtml; Governor's Remarks 5/19/20; Health Commissioner Persichilli's Remarks 6/5/20; DOH Standing Order for COVID-19 Testing; Commissioner Persichiili's Remarks 7/22/20; Governor's Remarks 7/27/20; Commissioner Persichiili's Remarks 8/12/20; Governor's Remarks 11/12/20