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N.J. now has 11 cases of coronavirus, mostly in North Jersey

Microbiologist Xiugen Zhang runs a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test at the Connecticut State Public Health Laboratory, Monday, March 2, 2020, in Rocky Hill, Conn. (Jessica Hill/AP Photo)

Microbiologist Xiugen Zhang runs a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test at the Connecticut State Public Health Laboratory, Monday, March 2, 2020, in Rocky Hill, Conn. (Jessica Hill/AP Photo)

New Jersey now has 11 presumptive positive cases of coronavirus, or COVID-19, state officials announced during a Monday press conference.

Another 24 people are under investigation and awaiting test results from the state lab, authorities said.

Gov. Phil Murphy also declared a state of emergency, as well as a public health emergency, to help with responding to the illness.

“The State of New Jersey is committed to deploying every available resource, across all levels of government, to help respond to the spread of COVID-19 and keep our residents informed,” said Murphy. “My administration will continue to work closely with our federal partners to ensure that local health agencies on the front lines of the state’s response are equipped with the resources needed to further prepare our health care system for a broader spread of COVID-19.”

With the emergency declaration, the governor’s office can act to prohibit excessive price increases pursuant to New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act and waive certain procurement procedures to expedite the delivery of goods and services necessary for coronavirus preparedness and response efforts.

The number of positive cases nearly doubled since the weekend, and New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli suggested that the spread of the virus that has sickened hundreds of people across the U.S. would get worse before it got better.

“We do expect more cases,” she said. “I don’t want to sugarcoat that at all.”

Yet Persichilli said residents could protect themselves by washing their hands regularly with soap and water, avoiding sick people, and staying home if they feel sick. She also suggests stocking up on a 14-day supply of food and medication in case they have to self-quarantine.

The state sent samples from all 11 patients to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmatory testing, but officials said Monday they have yet to receive the results and did not know the cause of the delay.

Of the five new cases announced Monday, two were in Monmouth County and there was one each in Passaic, Union, and Bergen counties.

According to state epidemiologist Dr. Christina Tan, officials traced four of the state’s positive cases to known coronavirus cases out-of-state and are investigating the source of the remaining presumptive positives.

“At this time there does not appear to be sustained community transmission in light of what we’re seeing,” said Tan. Community transmission is the term public health officials give for when it starts spreading within the community, instead of being related to people picking it up while traveling.

Officials said they would provide another update on Tuesday.

Some New Jersey schools have begun preparing for potential closures due to coronavirus, and others are already cancelling classes to form response plans. The Haddonfield School District announced that students would be off on Monday, March 16th so that teachers and administrators could plan for the possibility of home instruction as the outbreak continues.

In an attempt to head off the spread of the coronavirus on campus, Princeton University is gearing up to move all of its classes online.

Following the March 14-22 spring break, all lectures and seminars will be offered virtually, and the school plans to limit gatherings on campus and international travel. Administrators urged students not to return to campus following the break.

“Our medical advisers tell us that we should proceed on the assumption that the virus will spread more broadly and eventually reach our campus,” wrote President Chris Eisgruber in a message to the university community explaining the decision.

Rowan University in Glassboro starts its spring break on March 16. Administrators now say it will last two weeks, not one, to give professors time to prepare to teach online if they can’t resume in-person classes.

“All approved student and athletics trips will go on as planned over spring break. The University will remain open and operations will continue as usual,” said a statement on the Rowan website.

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