New Jersey, four times this month, blew past its benchmark of 20,000 COVID-19 tests per day—a key metric set for the end of May that Gov. Phil Murphy said is essential to begin lifting restrictions meant to stop the spread of the virus.
On May 22, the state offered 27,000 COVID-19 tests, followed by 30,000 tests the next day, 21,000 tests on May 24, 16,000 tests on Memorial Day and 24,400 tests on May 26, spanning 164 publicly and privately-operated testing centers.
New Jersey has been in a virtual state of lockdown since mid-March, including prohibitions on many businesses opening brick and mortar stores, and bans on public gatherings and many forms of travel.
Hospitalizations, fatalities and new cases of COVID-19 have all declined over the past month from their mid-April peak. And so restrictions have been lifted in recent weeks, but primarily for outdoor activities where social distancing – or a 6-foot distance – can be more easily followed.
“In mid-March, we were running a few hundred tests a day. By the end of March, we ramped up to 6,000 tests a day. In April, we doubled to 12,000 tests a day,” Murphy said on Wednesday afternoon at his daily COVID-19 press briefing.
Mass testing marks the second of six milestones that Murphy said need to be met before many restrictions in the state can be lifted.
“Testing, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine is the end-to-end process needed to contain the virus,” State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said on Wednesday.
That means a statewide “corps” of thousands of contract tracers – between 20 and 30 per 100,000 state residents – to track down and isolate potential COVID-19 positives, and prevent outbreaks of the virus.
“We have segmented our population into three main categories,” Persichilli said. “Vulnerable populations,” such as the elderly; “priority and essential” residents, such as health care workers; “and the general population.”
Testing is being introduced in the state’s largest cities – Elizabeth, Trenton, Camden, Paterson, Atlantic City and Newark – according to Persichilli.
The state received more than half a million COVID-19 testing kits from the Trump administration at the beginning of May.
“Anyone who wants to be tested can get tested. We especially want you to get tested if you have COVID-19 symptoms or have had recent contact with someone else who tested positive,” Murphy said.