NEWARK, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee that sets national health policy, today joined State Health Commissioner Judith M. Persichilli, chair of the New Jersey Coronavirus Task Force, to discuss the latest efforts in response to the global outbreak and provide the public an update on the current situation in New Jersey. New Jersey currently has no confirmed cases. However, globally there are over 40,000 confirmed cases, including 12 in the United States, and the death toll from coronavirus, over 900, has already exceeded the SARS outbreak of 2002.
“The fact there has been no significant spread of the coronavirus throughout New Jersey or the nation does not mean we should ignore this growing global health care challenge,” said Sen. Menendez. “It’s important that all levels of government—federal, state and local—continue to work seamlessly on a coordinated response to this new strain of coronavirus. It’s imperative that our state gets the resources, guidance and support it needs to keep New Jerseyans safe. That’s why I’ve been in close contact with federal agencies and their state partners to ensure a robust and comprehensive response to this latest global outbreak.”
Personnel from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) boarded a cruise ship that docked in Bayonne Friday and screened 27 passengers who recently traveled from mainland China. After being assessed by the CDC, 23 of those passengers were cleared and four individuals required further evaluation before being released from an area hospital Saturday.
Commissioner Persichilli updated reporters on the state’s preparedness. She and the Senator reminded residents to take basic precautions they should already be doing during the flu season: frequent hand washing, cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze, and get the flu shot.
More information can be found online on the state’s coronavirus fact sheet.
The announcement was made at the NJ Poison Control Center at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJPIES), which is operating the state’s 24-hour, public coronavirus hotline at 1- (800) 222-1222. They were joined by Congressman Albio Sires (N.J.-08); Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and Councilmen Luis Quintana and Anibal Ramos; Assemblywoman Shanique Speight; Dr. Lisa McHugh, the Novel Coronavirus Response Lead at the Department of Health Communicable Disease Service; NJPIES Executive and Medical Director Dr. Diane Calello; and University Hospital President and CEO Dr. Shereef Elnahal.
“The New Jersey Poison Center—the state's 24/7 hotline fully staffed with healthcare professionals—opened our phone lines last Monday to provide real-time, unbiased and factual information regarding 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Since that time, we have taken over 350 calls to the hotline from the public, healthcare professionals, and other concerned citizens of New Jersey,” said Dr. Calello. “We are constantly monitoring questions as they arise and participate daily with briefings by the CDC and the New Jersey Department of Health. Anyone with questions about this emerging health issue is encouraged to call us at the poison center, 1-800-222-1222. The call is free, and we communicate in any language.”
On Friday, Sen. Menendez urged the Trump Administration to fully fund pandemic preparedness and response efforts in light of the global Coronavirus outbreak and warned that its annual proposed funding cut could threaten the government’s ability to effectively combat the spread of the deadly virus. The Trump Administration has repeatedly proposed dramatic cuts to programs and offices that spearhead efforts to respond to this and other pandemics, including a 2020 budget proposal that cut critical pandemic response programs by nearly 20 percent.
Sen. Menendez has co-hosted two Senate briefings in recent weeks on the global coronavirus outbreak by high-level Trump Administration officials, in which he continued to press for additional resources for New Jersey.