Jersey City officials announced the opening of two COVID-19 testing sites this morning so that residents can be tested without having to travel to the county-sponsored drive-through facility in Secaucus.
Mayor Steven Fulop stated that the city now has 162 confirmed cases and expects that number to increase as the city begins its own testing.
“The need is very, very large. We decided to do these sites because truthfully we were struggling with the number of testings that was happening in the state and Hudson County, and we felt that Jersey City needed to have its own testing sites,” he began.
“The site in Secaucus is well-intentioned, but it doesn’t really help the people on this side of the county where the biggest density populations are. And a lot of people here don’t have cars, so it was counterproductive for us to push them onto public transportation to get to Secaucus.”
Anyone experiencing symptoms and would like to make an appointment should call 201-547-5535. Fulop said that just yesterday when the walk-up testing site opened at 2:30 p.m., over 500 people called for an appointment.
The second testing site is a drive-through in the southwest section of the city outside of the former DPW complex, located at 575 Route 440.
The mayor explained that the coronavirus is causing a serious strain on the city’s healthcare system, noting that an update from Christ Hospital indicated that they are running short on supplies.
“We had our daily call with Christ Hospital, and to give you a little perspective, they only have two days’ worth of facial masks left … we’re trying to help them out. They have 67 individuals in the hospital that are likely COVID-positive, they have two ventilators left and they have 1,000 testing kits arriving this weekend.”
The shortages at the hospital, which is limiting the amount of testing they can conduct, is a major reason the city decided to open its own sites and expects more similar ones to open in other large cities throughout the state.
Fulop estimated that this endeavor will cost the city about $750,000, but will be asking the state to reimburse them.
“We do intend to ask the state for reimbursement, and we do want to see a statewide policy around this because we can use more testing sites. I mentioned yesterday that we have a $70 million budget gap, so every dollar matters and we’re likely to do layoffs at the end of the year or at least we are going to explore it.
“We just thought that this was a priority, so we’re spending a lot on money on this and hopefully the state reimburses for it,” Fulop said.
The city is hoping that the state signs off on a contract with a lab provider so that the city doesn’t have to potentially spend more taxpayer dollars for long-term testing, especially in the context of a looming budget deficit.
According to Stacey Flanagan, Jersey City’s director of health and human services, the city’s lab provider is BioReference Laboratories, which also provides services to the county at the drive-through facility in Secaucus.
“They offered us the ability to turn this around quickly, and we’re working together so that we can reduce times so, for example, using our staff to drive the actual specimens to the company’s lab in Elmwood Park,” said Flanagan.
The cost to the city per test is $50, and the city will be making the tests available to both Bayonne and Hoboken residents as well, with Jersey City passing on the costs of each test to those municipalities.
“We did reach out proactively to the mayors of Bayonne and Hoboken and say to them that as we get this up and running we’d be happy to work with them in order to help them get their residents tested and pass the fees over to them,” Fulop noted.