Shore Congressman makes push to keep NJ testing sites open
Jersey Shore Congressman Chris Smith (R - 4th District) alongside fellow Jersey Congressman Josh Gottheimer got the attention of the Department of Health and Human Services and their efforts will result in the state's two free Covid-19 testing sites in Bergen and Monmouth County to remain open.
The site at Bergen Community College and the PNC Bank Arts Center will continue to run and have the backing of the federal government despite initial plans Congressman Smith said to turn the test sites over to local and state authorities in New Jersey.
FEMA officials had reportedly planned to leave the sites on Friday April 10 but will now stay until May 30.
“I was pleased to co-lead this bipartisan effort with Rep. Josh Gottheimer to ensure that FEMA stays operational at the federal testing sites in Monmouth County in my district and in Bergen County in his,” Smith said. “FEMA’s original plan would have had them pulling up stakes and gone by April 11th but now they will stay fully operational—conducting about 500 coronavirus tests a day—at least through the end of May 2020.”
Representative Smith said that he received confirmation of the extension in a letter from HHS this week.
RADM Erica Schwartz, MD, JD, MPH Deputy Surgeon General Office of the Surgeon General U.S. Public Health Service, expressed appreciation for the April 4th congressional delegation letter and told Smith “The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) share your sense of urgency regarding community testing for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)…. We have extended the transition period for the two federally supported CBTS locations in New Jersey through May 30, 2020.”
“As NJ ranks second among all states in the total number of coronavirus cases, we pushed both FEMA and the Public Health Service to continue the desperately needed supplies and personnel, at or above the current capacity, until a clear and proven decline in positive cases and related hospital admissions has been observed,” Smith said. “Medical professionals report that we have not yet hit the peak of the virus in our state. We need more federal support, not less."
Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11), Jeff Van Drew (NJ-02), Donald Payne Jr. (NJ-10), Andy Kim (NJ-03), Bill Pascrell (NJ-09), Bonnie Watson-Coleman (NJ-12), Donald Norcross (NJ-01), Albio Sires (NJ-08) and Frank Pallone (NJ-06), as well as Sens. Cory Booker and Robert Menendez also signed the letter Smith and Gottheimer penned.
The drive-thru test sites were opened at the PNC Bank Arts Center on March 23 and Bergen Community College in Paramus on March 20, and have tested over an estimated 6,500 people by the first week of April.
FEMA issued a statement on Friday that along with HHS they will work with states with federal Community-Based Testing Sites to learn whether or not sites want to continue as they are now, or transition to full state control.
It won't happen in New Jersey as Congressman Smith and Gottheimer have made sure the NJ sites stay federally backed.
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