PATERSON, NJ – Acting in place of a Board of Health, the Paterson City Council met in an emergency meeting Saturday to discuss the possibility of opening local testing sites for the COVID-19 virus.
While city officials had said they hoped to open one as part of initial efforts to limit the spread of coronavirus, they say that county officials suggested that it should be located on the campus of William Paterson University in Wayne. The distance, many have argued, combined with the prevalence of households with no private vehicles, as well as the danger of transporting potentially sick individuals on public transit, has made it difficult for Paterson residents to get tested.
According to the Paterson’s Health Official Paul Persaud local officials had taken initial steps to establish a location but “when we reached a certain point, the county decided to set up their site at William Paterson College,” he said. “We were supposed to partner with St. Joes.”
“We’re two months into this and I’m hearing that we are back where we were on March 16,” said Councilman Luiz Velez. “Do we have a company under contract? When will they open? I want this to be right now and today.”
First Ward Councilman Michael Jackson said he is concerned about senior citizens, noting that with the buildings in his ward there are as many as 3,000 in his jurisdiction, and added that he has arranged for an Irvington-based testing firm to make a presentation to the city about a plan it could implement quickly.
“They already have experience in doing testing,” Jackson said.
While Persaud acknowledged that he had passed Jackson’s recommendation to the Mayor’s office the point was raised regarding the legality of bringing in just one firm to present, a potential violation of state bidding laws.
To ensure compliance with state law, as well as to develop a successful model, according to Business Administrator Kathleen Long, city officials are continuing to “look at all options,” including buying test kits directly and expanding St. Joe’s capabilities, or, similar to the manner in which local first responders were tested earlier this month, partnering with a healthcare provider that would conduct the testing independently but in partnership with local agencies.