New Jersey and Delaware officials said Monday that their states still had no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, which has now been detected in 91 people across the U.S. and claimed six lives in this country.
But top New Jersey health officials warned that it was possible that the virus — which appears to have originated from animals at an outdoor market in Wuhan, China — could make its way to the Garden State.
“I would have to say, given what we’re seeing in some other states, I would not be surprised if that happened,” said Department of Health Commissioner Judith M. Persichilli.
State health officials said the eight people tested for coronavirus in New Jersey have all tested negative. As of Monday, one person is still awaiting testing.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates Newark Liberty International Airport, was continuing to screen travelers who had recently been to mainland China and Iran.
Gov. Phil Murphy said public health officials, police and other law enforcement authorities, and transportation agencies were working together to screen for coronavirus and prepare the state in the event of any confirmed cases, but he emphasized that the general public is safe.
“The risk to the average American is low,” Murphy said during Monday’s briefing. “That is a welcome relief, but we are not allowing ourselves to sit back in any way.”
Murphy said New Jersey was also coordinating closely with the Trump administration and officials from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He added that the state would need federal funding and medical supplies to maintain its response efforts.
Symptoms of the coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The illness is spread through person-to-person contact.
Health officials noted that it is still flu season, and such symptoms are more likely a manifestation of the flu than the coronavirus. Residents were encouraged to wash their hands with soap and water and sneeze into their sleeves.
The state has set up a hotline for residents who have questions about the coronavirus: 1-800-222-1222.
In Delaware, two new patients are being tested for coronavirus as state health leaders announce a shift in their response to the global outbreak.
Health officials say both patients live in Kent County in central Delaware and had recently traveled to a country where coronavirus is active. They wouldn’t identify where they traveled until the test results were in.
The results should be back sooner, as starting this week the Division of Public Health lab is now able to perform those tests. Previously, samples had to be sent to the Centers for Disease Control.
While the state Division of Public Health waits for results, the state is making a change to how it prepares for COVID-19. The original strategy was to contain the virus. Public health director Dr. Karyl Rattay said with community spread now likely, they’ll work to reduce the impact it will have. “This is a marathon, and not a sprint. We are prepared to be in this for the long haul,” she said.
Delaware is monitoring another 14 people who recently returned from China. “These are individuals who are asymptomatic, that means they have no symptoms, they are to remain in their homes, so that means not go to school or work, and very importantly, they are to contact us if they have any symptoms consistent with coronavirus,” she said.
Delaware officials will now start to monitor residents who travel to countries beyond China, including Italy, Japan, Iran, and South Korea.
The state hopes to have its coronavirus hotline up and running later this week. Workers who will answer that hotline will get training starting Tuesday.