More than three months into the COVID-19 pandemic, people in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have “flattened the curve” of infection. They did this by following Centers for Disease Control instructions to deal with this contagious virus: washing hands, social distancing, and wearing masks, along with a prolonged shutdown.
And that’s good news. However, with the number of virus cases rising in half the states in the country, it serves as a warning not to let up on the tactics that brought us to this point.
Testing is considered a vital tool in keeping the virus under control. What experts have learned is that many people show no symptoms of having the virus, yet they are carriers. Many state- or county-sponsored testing sites have closed recently.
Numbers throughout New Jersey have slowed tremendously, which had led to the closing of some testing sites.
In New Jersey, the testing center at Sussex County Community College (SCCC) closed on June 19. In Passaic County, the site at William Paterson College in Wayne closed on June 20.
“The demand for tests at our county testing center has dropped to a point where we have to consider the allocation of our already limited resources and staff,” said Sussex County Freeholder Anthony Fasano in a June 16 press release.
Sussex County Administrator Gregory Poff said he negotiated an agreement with Morris County to allow Sussex County residents to test at the County College of Morris (CCM) testing site after the Sussex County site closed. However, the CCM site too is closed, as of June 26.
According to the press release, 328 tests were performed at the SCCC site from May 8 through June 10. On June 10, 10 tests were performed and 11 were scheduled for June 12.
“If we believe there is a demand, we will reconsider the closure,” said Poff.
Poff said the county did not consider testing asymptomatic residents. Only people with COVID-19 symptoms and a prescription were tested at the SCCC site. And that seems to be the case with other available testing.
Testing in Sussex County is available at private doctors’ offices, urgent care offices, and CVS pharmacies in both Sparta and Byram.
CVS requires that those wishing to be tested answer an online questionnaire about their symptoms and proximity to people who already have the virus. Only those who have symptoms or have been within six feet of someone who tested positive for the virus qualify. Poff said there is no fee for the CVS test.
In Passaic County, COVID-19 testing has hit the road, with a scheduled stop in each municipality throughout the county between June and July. This testing is also free.
The Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders has a pop-up mobile testing site that will stop in each municipality for a full day of on-site testing.
On June 17, Camp Hope on Union Valley Road in West Milford, provided free testing to anyone requesting it, even without symptoms or proximity to positive cases. One more mobile testing event is scheduled at Manchester Regional High School, 70 Church Street in Haledon, on Wednesday, July 8.
Testing is available for any Passaic County resident with identification. Health insurance is not required. You should bring a phone or tablet for registration. The site is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., but the first hour is dedicated to first responders and healthcare workers in Passaic County.
These mobile sites test patients using the saliva test, which has the same effectiveness as the nose swab test. No eating, drinking, smoking, or chewing gum are allowed 30 minutes prior to testing. Results are available 48 to 72 hours after the test.
Passaic County is also offering free, at-home saliva test kits. To register for an at-home testing kit, go to passaiccountycares.org. You must have a driver’s license or state ID to qualify.
Other sites offering testing
• CVS in Oak Ridge – Appointment required; referral not required; complete questionnaire to qualify
• PM Pediatrics Urgent Care Center, Pompton Plains – appointment required; referral not required. Screening via Telemed mobile app.
Sussex County has been doing contact tracing, according to Poff, to help keep the number of cases down. According to the CDC, contact tracing is done when someone tests positive. Those who have been in contact with the infected person are notified of their exposure and encouraged to quarantine to help ensure their safety and to prevent additional transmission.
New Jersey requires contact tracers to go through 16 to 20 hours of training, Poff said. County staff members have been doing contact tracing along with part-time employees. Eventually, Sussex County will have 10 trained contact tracers, Poff said.
Governor Phil Murphy said the state is hiring more than 230 additional contact tracers to continue the fight against COVID-19. The state has 900 tracers already trained and working throughout the state.
New York, considered the epicenter of the virus, has had a dramatic change in its numbers statewide. Wide-spread testing has helped identify those with the virus. Social distancing, mandatory masks and an aggressive informational campaign have contributed to this positive result.
Around Orange County, two state sites are open for testing: The Anthony Wayne Recreation Center in Harriman State Park at Bear Mountain and the municipal parking lot in Haverstraw on West Broad Street.
Both sites, as well as other state sites in Westchester, require appointments but not referrals. However, those wishing to be tested must have symptoms or have been in direct contact with someone who has the virus. Testing is free.
Can I be tested?
According to the New York State Health Department website, the following criteria must be met to be eligible for testing:
• An individual is symptomatic or has a history of symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g. fever, cough, and/or trouble breathing), particularly if the individual is 70 years of age or older, the individual has a compromised immune system, or the individual has an underlying health condition; or
• An individual has had close (i.e. within six feet) or proximate contact with a person known to be positive with COVID-19; or
• An individual is subject to a precautionary or mandatory quarantine; or
• An individual is employed as a health care worker, first responder, or other essential worker who directly interacts with the public while working; or
• An individual presents with a case where the facts and circumstances – as determined by the treating clinician in consultation with state or local department of health officials – warrant testing; or
• An individual is included under other criteria set by the NYS Dept. of Health based on an individual’s geographic place of residence, occupation, or other factors that the Department may deem relevant for COVID-19 testing purposes; or
• Any individual who would return to workplace in Phase 1; or
• Any individual who attended any of the recent protests across the state.
For an appointment, call the state Health Department Coronavirus Hotline at 1-888-364-3065. Some form of identification must be provided at the site at the time of your appointment.
New York State recommends that if you go to a non-state sponsored testing site you should check with the site and your insurer in advance. If you go to a test site operated by local governments, private companies, including pharmacies and medical practices or not-for-profit organizations, you are advised to check with the testing site and your insurer in advance of being tested to confirm you will not be responsible for any fees associated with your test.
The following places provide testing in or near Orange County:
• WMCHealth at St. Anthony Community Hospital, Warwick-- By appointment only; testing is available for current and former patients whose physicians are affiliated with Bon Secours Medical Group, Good Samaritan Hospital, St. Anthony Community Hospital and Bon Secours Community Hospital. Call primary physician for screening and referral. Testing done on an intermittent schedule. Photo identification required. Self-pay fee is $75.
• Excel Urgent Care, 1 Hatfield Ln #2b, Goshen -- (845) 360-5530. Appointment not required; referral not required; testing for all patients
• Orange Urgent Care, 75 Crystal Run Road, Middletown -- (845) 703-2273. Appointment not required; referral not required
• Crystal Run Healthcare, 155 Crystal Run Road, Middletown -- (845) 703-6999. Appointment required; referral required; tests limited to certain patients
• Rite Aid, Middletown -- (845) 692-2422. Appointment required; referral not required
• Middletown Medical, Middletown - (845) 342-4774. Appointment required; referral not required
• CVS, Newburgh - (845) 566-0012. Appointment required; referral not required; tests limited to certain patients
• Good Samaritan Hospital, Suffern -- (845) 368-5000. Appointment required; referral required; tests limited to certain patients
• Walmart Mobile Testing, Milford, PA · (800) 635-8611. Appointment required; referral not required; testing for all patients
In Pike County, there are three testing sites for residents, according to county communications director Krista Gromalski. Testing provided at Walmart in Milford is free and does not require insurance.
• The Pike County Training Center, 135 Pike County Boulevard, Hawley. Open Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wayne Memorial Laboratory Services offers COVID-19 and respiratory panel tests by prescription only. The testing site was initiated by Wayne Memorial Health System, along with Pike County’s Emergency Management officials, and the Pike County Commissioners.
• Dingmans Medical Center, 1592 Route 739 Suite 1, Dingmans Ferry. By prescription only. Call 570-828-8000 or visit dingmansmedical.com for more information. Offering evaluation and testing to the community to include those not currently a patient of Dingmans Medical Center. Mandatory screening is done via Televisit, which is billed to insurance, then appointments are given for drive-through testing.
• Walmart, 220 Route 6 and 209, Milford. No prescription needed; Free tests to those who meet Centers for Disease Control, state and local guidelines. Appointment is required for drive-through testing. Visit DoINeedaCOVID19test.com for more information.
Testing is also done through other private providers including national pharmacies, such as RiteAid and CVS. However, none are located in Pike. RiteAid in East Stroudsburg provides testing as does CVS in Scranton.
Pennsylvania, like its neighbors, is using contact tracing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Contact tracers adhere to the CDC’s core principles of contact tracing. As noted on the state’s website, health.pa.gov, as the commonwealth moves to loosen social distancing restrictions, the department plans to bolster these efforts using additional personnel, technology and improved workflows.
A representative from the state’s Health Department said contact tracers are currently being trained.