In a late afternoon coronavirus preparedness briefing with New Jersey business leaders yesterday, Gov. Phil Murphy and executives from the state’s Department of Health (DOH) detailed steps that businesses should take in advance of a COVID-19 outbreak in the state.
Chris Neuwirth, assistant commissioner at the DOH, said businesses should review their continuity plans. Key stakeholders should come together and review mission critical functions and discuss how those functions would operate with a reduced workforce. “It is important to understand how your business will progress through this experience with, for example, increased employee absenteeism, or supply chain restrictions, disruptions or shortages,” Neuwirth said.
Questions from those taking part in the teleconference ranged from what symptoms to look for, the availability of COVID-19 test kits and results turnaround time, to steps landlords should take at, for example, multi-tenant office buildings if an employee from one tenant company is diagnosed with coronavirus.
According to Neuwirth, the state just has 500 test kits, but is in the process of obtaining more. “Right now, we have sufficient testing capabilities to handle the volume we are seeing,” he said.
DOH Commissioner Judy Persichilli said that volume has included nine individuals in the state who have tested negative. Meanwhile, Governor Murphy said that 10 to 12 people are being tested “as we speak.” He added that the turnaround time for a test is eight hours, and that testing can now be done by the DOH, whereas previously, tests were sent to CDC facilities in Atlanta, Georgia.
Similar to a press conference Governor Murphy held two days ago on Coronavirus preparedness, Neuwirth encouraged businesses to seek the latest guidance from both the federal Centers of Disease Control (CDC) and the DOH. Businesses with questions can e-mail the DOH at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit the DOH website at www.NJ.gov/health, or call 1-800-222-1222. The CDC has a vast array of information on its website as well, with an interim guidance for businesses and employers page at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/guidance-business-response.html
Commissioner Persichilli said that even though this novel coronavirus is cause for concern, “it is important that residents know that the risk to the general public remains low.”
As of yesterday, there were no known cases of the illness in New Jersey, but “the increasing number of cases in other states makes it more likely that we may see [COVID-19] in the near future, said State Epidemiologist Tina Tan. “The virus can cause illness of varying degrees, from mild to severe presentations, potentially leading to hospitalization and death,” she said. “Those with the most severe presentations are older adults with underlying health conditions. Worldwide, there have been very few cases reported in children, and those reported cases have been mild.”
Murphy said that a vaccine against the diseases may not be developed for another year, or “perhaps longer than that. … What we have to rely on are the basics, including washing hands with soap; coughing into your sleeves; and not touching your eyes, nose and ears with your hands.
“If you don’t feel well, don’t go to school or work. These are still the tenets of the first line of defense,” he said, adding. “We are hyper-focused on this. This is not a time to panic, but to be prepared.”
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