Rooney urges FDA to quickly test for new COVID-19 cases as state faces economic uncertainty

Rooney urges FDA to quickly test for new COVID-19 cases as state faces economic uncertainty

TRENTON, N.J. – Following Gov. Phil Murphy’s weekend executive order that mandated people stay home and shuttered all non-essential businesses, Assemblyman Kevin J. Rooney announced he was issuing a resolution to urge the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ramp up testing for COVID-19 so that people could return to work.

Kevin J. Rooney

“It is imperative that people who have the coronavirus know as soon as possible so that they isolate at home or seek necessary medical care,” said Rooney (R-Bergen). “The FDA needs to ensure we can test as many people as quickly as possible because the longer businesses are forced to shut down and everyone is ordered to stay home, the greater the long-term financial consequences will be. People want to know when they will be able to resume their normal lives and provide for their families.”

Rooney also suggested more needs to be done to develop a crucial blood test for coronavirus antibodies.

“The current lab test used in the United States identifies people who are currently spreading the virus. That’s crucial information, but that test doesn’t reveal who had previously been infected,” explained Rooney. “That’s important too for understanding the unfolding epidemic.”

According to the COVID Tracking Project, more than 236,000 Americans have been tested for COVID-19. At the end of last week, the FDA announced it authorized the use of the first rapid diagnostic test that could detect the novel coronavirus in approximately 45 minutes. It can be processed by providers without training at one of 5,000 machines across the country. The approval is part of an effort to make up for delays in testing.

“If community spread continues, the closures mandated by the governor will be prolonged. This is something that we simply cannot afford,” said Rooney. “We need to have access to adequate test kits so that we can ensure these people are being quarantined.”

The state Department of Health announced it is purchasing high-throughput diagnostic lab equipment, which will allow the state lab to process more than 1,000 tests per day. The first drive-thru testing site in Bergen County was at capacity within the first hour of being open. The site has enough kits for only 2,500 tests per week and already tested nearly 1,000 in the first two days it was open. On Monday, another site opened at the PNC Arts Center in Monmouth County and at Kean University in Union County. On Tuesday, Hudson County will open a designated testing center at Hudson Regional Hospital in Secaucus by appointment only.

As of Sunday afternoon, New Jersey had nearly 2,000 cases of the coronavirus and 20 deaths.