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Rutgers professor tests positive for coronavirus, outbreak continues in NJ

<p>A Rutgers University professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering has tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19), making him one of the 98 total cases throughout New Jersey.&nbsp;</p>

A Rutgers University professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering has tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19), making him one of the 98 total cases throughout New Jersey. 

A biomedical engineering professor at Rutgers University tested positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), according to a University-wide email sent on Sunday by Antonio Calcado, executive vice president and chief operating officer. 

“The professor was exposed at a non-Rutgers location in late February,” Calcado said, according to the email. “He has been self-isolating, is currently doing well and has the full support of the University and our Occupational Health Department.”

Calcado said the professor had come in contact with a “limited number” of individuals after he was exposed to COVID-19, who have since been identified and notified. Those individuals have been asked to self-isolate, as is required according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the New Jersey Department of Health. 

The Biomedical Engineering Building, which is located on Busch campus, is being disinfected according to CDC guidelines, which means the cleaning process will focus on frequently touched surfaces. 

Calcado said the University community should continue to practice social distancing, good hygiene as well as use common sense. 

“In a community of (approximately) 100,000 students, faculty and staff, it is reasonable to expect that this is only the first of several incidents of COVID-19 that will involve members of our community,” Calcado said. “I expect that each member of our University community will continue to support one another during this health crisis.”

The news comes after Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) said during a press briefing on Sunday that New Jersey had 98 total reported cases of COVID-19, including two deaths.

The Daily Targum previously reported the first death was a 69-year-old man from Bergen County. The second victim was a 50-year-old woman being treated at CentraState Medical Center in Monmouth County, according to a tweet from Murphy.  

The woman was connected to the Bergen County individual who died and the virus was passed around at a family gathering, New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said during the press briefing.

One of the new cases includes a woman from Bergen County who works at University Hospital in Newark, Persichilli said. The hospital is affiliated with Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

Persichilli said Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, another Rutgers-affiliated hospital, is now the second hospital in the state to conduct COVID-19 testing in its lab, according to NJ Advance Media.   

The state is partnering with the New Jersey Hospital Association to provide personal protection equipment to hospitals, especially those in areas with a high number of cases, Persichilli said.

Murphy and Persichilli said the state is also working on expanding COVID-19 testing services, including drive-through facilities or at-home specimen collection. 

In order to increase access to testing and treatment, Murphy said his administration requested the federal government re-open Affordable Care Act enrollment in New Jersey for 60 days.

Department of Banking and Insurance Commissioner Marlene Caride said the state has already taken action to require insurance companies to cover COVID-19 testing but must address those who are uninsured or underinsured. 

"Clearly, we do not want residents to be apprehensive about seeking treatment because they are not insured or concerned about medical bills," Caride said.

Caride said similar measures have been implemented during other crises such as major weather events and other states are beginning to implement special enrollment periods in response to the outbreak.

As the spread of COVID-19 continues across New Jersey, Murphy said the state will take more aggressive steps to move the state toward social distancing. 

"Not enough is being done. There is too much 'business as usual,'" Murphy said. "We need not just most of us, but all of us, to follow suit."

The Targum previously reported that Murphy recommended limiting gatherings to no more than 250 people. The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) extended license expiration dates to prevent people from gathering in MVC facilities. In addition, the state recommended medical facilities place restrictions on their visitation policies.

Murphy said his administration is considering a mandatory statewide curfew as well as revisiting the restrictions on the number of people at gatherings to make the recommendation more strict.

"I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to take personal responsibility and avoid gatherings, both small and definitely large," Persichilli said.

Murphy also said a mandatory public school shutdown will likely be announced tomorrow. He said he will ensure that students who rely on school lunches will still have access to food and that he is also taking into account the limitations for students who do not have access to devices to do online schooling as well as parents who require childcare.

Murphy announced state employees will be authorized to work at home, with more details to come tomorrow. He said the state hopes to encourage other businesses to allow their employees to work from home as well.

In addition to Murphy's social distancing measures, other governmental agencies are taking steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The New Jersey Department of Corrections announced they will suspend visitations for prisons and halfway houses for 30 days, according to a press release. They will expand access to free phone calls, payment kiosks and provide free postage for residents. 

Additionally, New Jersey municipal court sessions will be suspended for two weeks, according to NJ Advance Media. 

Murphy said the state will continue to implement the appropriate measures during the COVID-19 outbreak to maintain public health and asked all residents to continue following social distancing practices as well as other recommended measures. 

"It will take our entire New Jersey family pulling together for us to emerge from this emergency stronger than before, and we will all do that, assuming we all do our part," Murphy said. "We will get through this, not unscathed, not without mistakes, but we will get through this."

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