New Jersey is set to receive a new quick-result system to test for the coronavirus as the state combats a second wave of the pandemic, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Thursday.
The federal Department of Health has chosen the Garden State as one of the first five or six states in the U.S. to receive a new rapid molecular test developed by CUE Health, Murphy said at his latest COVID-19 briefing in Trenton.
The test has shown to produce results with 99% accuracy in about 20 minutes, the governor said.
It’s a molecular test that uses a nasal swab and has a very low rate of producing false positive results, unlike rapid antigen testing the state has been using, state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said.
“We do expect that it will perform better than antigen tests,” Persichilli said.
New Jersey’s health department is currently developing a distribution plan to deploy the tests to the state’s most vulnerable communities, including longterm care facilities and veterans homes, as soon as the state receives them, Murphy said.
The governor stressed that the second wave is “different from what we faced in the spring, when we were forced to take drastic statewide action to mitigate uncontrolled statewide spread in the face of scarce testing resources and limited PPE and ventilators, among other critical needs.”
Now, Murphy said, New Jersey has “a much stronger testing regime in place” and “a greater ability to effectively mobilize hotspot teams and other resources.”
“By working alongside and through local health and public safety officials, we believe we can have a more effective and efficient means of attacking this virus in this second wave,” he said.
The state’s daily case report — which was 3,517 new positive tests on Thursday — does not include results from rapid antigen tests, only more reliable PCR swab tests.
Murphy said Thursday said the state has increased its testing capacity so much that it’s averaging about 45,000 PCR tests a day.
It’s unclear whether the results from the new tests will be included in the state’s daily reports.
After seeing its numbers drop significantly over the summer, New Jersey has seen the second wave grow the last few weeks. The state has reported more than 3,000 new cases in four of the last six days.
It’s difficult to compare these new caseloads to the first wave in the spring because the state has more than doubled its testing capacity. And deaths are not increasing at the rate they were in March and April — something officials say is partly because hospitals are getting better at treating the virus.
But officials warn that rising positivity and hospitalization rates are a cause for concern. New Jersey’s 71 hospitals reported 1,827 patients as of Wednesday night, the highest since June 5.
“This is a wake-up call,” state Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said. “We need your help. … If we continue on this trajectory, our state will return to the situation we were in last spring.”
To help fight the outbreak, bars and restaurants in New Jersey will also be required to close indoor dining at 10 p.m. each night starting Thursday. Plus, all indoor interstate organized sports up to the high school level will be off-limits under the new rules.
Murphy on Thursday also revealed a new executive order granting counties and towns the authority to force nonessential businesses to close at 8 p.m., though that is optional.