HEALTH

Third NJ COVID-19 case likely, and officials act to prevent further spread

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

With the emergence of a third likely case of COVID-19 in New Jersey, officials were taking steps to track the path of the novel, flu-like illness and prevent its spread in such places as health care centers, nursing homes and schools.

The state’s third presumptively positive case — like the others, reflecting state lab results that are pending confirmation with the federal Centers for Disease Control — is a Camden County man in his 60s who’s been hospitalized since March 3, according to the Governor’s Office. Camden officials said he’s at Jefferson Cherry Hill Hospital, and in stable condition.

He joins two other cases, both in Bergen County: a Fort Lee man who’s hospitalized at Hackensack University Medical Center, and an Englewood woman who’s self-quarantined at home.

Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco said both Bergen cases initially reported to the same walk-in urgent care facility in the county, possibly exposing staff and patients.

“The investigation of the exposure — or the people who may have come in contact with those two people — is continuing and is underway,” he said. “We ask again: If you’re going to go to the hospital or health care facility, that you call ahead.”

Tedesco also said that another potential coronavirus case, an elderly woman, is hospitalized in Bergen County and results of tests are pending. She is one of 11 persons currently under investigation in New Jersey.

Meanwhile, officials said they are investigating possible contacts with the people who have tested positive. And increasingly, the epidemiological trail leads back to Westchester County in New York and an infected attorney who was one of that state’s first cases.

Tedesco confirmed the Englewood woman had close contact with the lawyer.

“She may have been working with or in the same building as the first presumptive case out of New York, that’s all I know about the woman from Englewood,” he said.

The attorney’s synagogue — Young Israel of New Rochelle — is now temporarily closed, and New York officials said that many of the new cases reported in the state are connected to the Westchester epicenter.

“During the day today, we had 11 new cases, eight in Westchester, three in Nassau County,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “That brings the total to 44 cases. The cases in Westchester and Nassau, we have to do more investigation, but we suspect that they are related to the existing cases.”

In Bergen County, the Frisch School, a private Orthodox Jewish high school in Paramus, was temporarily shut down when it was learned that some students went to a bat mitzvah at Young Israel of New Rochelle.

Meanwhile, a Paterson daycare facility was closed for cleaning. “Due to the potential exposure of the coronavirus, GBCA Eastside Paterson Head Start will be closed Friday March 6, 2020 until further notice to sanitize the facility,” read a notice on the website.

In Bergen County, some school districts reported higher levels of absenteeism Friday. The county superintendent said there’s no evidence of the virus in schools. But he says the state has approved at-home education, should the district decide to go that route.

“As long as the school district can continue the continuity of instruction for students, those days will count,” Louis DeLisio said.

Meanwhile, officials at nursing homes in the state were takings steps to protect their residents, who experts say could be more vulnerable to developing a severe form of the disease, cautioning family members to err on the side of caution and not visit their loved ones if they have any reason to suspect they might be ill.

Coronavirus cases have topped 100,000 worldwide, mostly concentrated in Asia. At a news conference, businesses in Palisades Park’s large Korean community say they’re victims of coronavirus fear.

“Business has declined up 75% due to all the negative, unconfirmed text messages and social media comments and so on,” said Mayor Christopher Chung.