New Jersey to prepare for public health hazard during “rapid spread of coronavirus”
Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order on Feb. 3 establishing the Coronavirus Task Force to coordinate all New Jersey efforts to prepare for and respond to the public health hazard posed by the novel coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China in December of 2019.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the novel coronavirus, officially known as 2019-nCov, is identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness.
For confirmed novel coronavirus infections, reports range from people with few to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying. Symptoms can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, the CDC said.
The CDC believes at this time that symptoms of the novel coronavirus may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 after exposure.
“With the outbreak and rapid spread of coronavirus around the world, it is critical that New Jersey has strong preparedness protocols in place,” Murphy said. “By establishing the Coronavirus Task Force, we are bringing together experts across state agencies, health officials, and federal partners to ensure that we are working collaboratively to protect the health and safety of all New Jerseyans.”
The Coronavirus Task Force is chaired by Judith Persichilli Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health. Persichilli said New Jersey residents are not at high risk despite the ongoing outbreak.
“Outbreaks like this, when a new virus is emerging to infect people, are always concerning,” Persichilli said. “The situation poses a serious public health threat, but the risk to New Jersey residents remains low, and our level of preparedness is high.”
According to Persichilli, the Department of Health has been working on this effort for the past two weeks.
The Coronavirus Task Force will include representatives from the New Jersey Department of Human Services, the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety within the Office of the Attorney General, the New Jersey State Police, the New Jersey Department of Education, and the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.
Newark Airport to serve as screening site
In addition to managing the state’s preparation and response to the novel coronavirus, the task force will coordinate the state’s partnership with the federal government and Newark Liberty International Airport to ensure effective communications and dissemination of information.
Murphy noted that Newark Liberty will serve as one of 11 major airports in the United States authorized to receive flights from China that require enhanced entry screening for coronavirus.
“There will be a screening process at the airport as the flights land and followup measures as needed,” said Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka. “Please rest assured that precautions are being taken to limit any exposure.”
The task force will also coordinate with hospitals and other health care facilities to manage preparations for the possible treatment of patients demonstrating coronavirus symptoms or risks.
According to Murphy, New Jersey continues to work closely with the CDC and local health partners to monitor the situation and will provide updates accordingly.
As part of the preparedness activities, the Murphy Administration launched a webpage with resources regarding the novel coronavirus, including travel updates and advisories and guidance sent to health care providers, local health departments, infection preventionists, and other health partners.
The hotline for the public to ask questions about the novel coronavirus is 1-800-222-1222.
The 24-hour hotline is operated by the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System, also known as the New Jersey Poison Center, according to Murphy. The free hotline is staffed with trained health care professionals and can serve callers in multiple languages.
“Everyone can do their part to help us respond to this emerging public health threat by taking everyday preventive actions to help stop the spread of germs,” Persichilli said. “Wash hands frequently and stay home when you are sick.”
According to the governor, New Jersey has no confirmed nor suspected cases of novel coronavirus at this time.