By Christie Duffy
Suspected Ebola carriers may be coming to Hunterdon County. Just up the road from Glen Gardner’s main street, the borough’s general store and the post office.
“The Director of Public Safety informed me Friday afternoon that we may be getting Ebola patients,” said Hunterdon County Freeholder Robert Walton.
Walton says county and state health officials visited this site on Friday. Formerly Hagedorn Psychiatric Hospital – it’s been closed since 2012. Today there are holes in the windows and the only activity inside, appears to be the birds. But Walton, who is the liaison to the County Health Department says the state plans to use this and another building as a quarantine facility.
“If there is a large outbreak of Ebola patients as I understand it. They may house some folks here who have been exposed to the virus to see if they come up with the symptoms,” said Walton.
Walton says other neighboring buildings currently house homeless veterans and a drug rehabilitation center. There are no homes in site, the town is about a mile down the road.
When asked if he was comfortable about this, Walton said, “I’m a little uneasy with it. You know this is the healthiest county in New Jersey. It’s kind of ironic to bring this disease into the county voluntarily. We’re not alarmed but we’re very apprehensive.”
There is no cell phone service here – sometimes a little bit of a signal – but the freeholder says there is a newer building that will also be used right next to that older one for the quarantine. It was built in about the 1970’s he says, and all in all the probably have about 40 beds combined.
Stanley Kovach is the Mayor of the town just down the road, Glen Gardner.
“You hit a key issue – it’s remote. It’s not around the general public. They can isolate all the buildings up there that they have that are empty and that way if something goes on they can keep it contained,” said Kovach. What about your residents though? “My residents are gonna be concerned as I’m concerned about them.”
It’s very far though from Newark where people may be flying in, why so west in the state? “That’s a question better answered by the state. It doesn’t make much sense to me to take people from Newark and drive them an hour out here into the middle of no where,” said Walton.
The State Department of Health would only say Monday they prefer to quarantine individuals in their homes. If that’s not possible, a spokesperson says the state will find them temporary housing.