Coronoavirus NJ: Second Wave Arrives, Rutgers to Study Improving Access To Testing in Underserved Communities

Sources: North Jersey.com; MyCentralJersey.com

The second wave of the coronavirus pandemic is mounting across New Jersey, as new daily diagnoses in recent days have reached heights not seen since May. How high this wave will climb — and how deadly it will be — remains unknown.

Experts anticipate there will be more cases with fewer deaths, as younger people account for more of the infections — and treatment improves. But none of the current medications is a knock-out punch, and people are still hospitalized and die of COVID-19 – including 758 in the hospital Sunday, with four deaths. No vaccine has yet been approved.

The potential that the current trend could accelerate as it did in the spring, with exponential community spread, is real. Contact-tracing, masking, and social distancing practices will help to push back against the surge. But state officials are redoubling their push for precautions.

“As cooler weather pulls more of us back inside, we must remain extra vigilant,” Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday. Most of the new cases are attributable not to schools or businesses, but private gatherings inside private homes, he said.

Acknowledging public fatigue with restrictions on their activities, Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli urged the public to double down for the sake of the upcoming Thanksgiving holidays. Preventive steps taken now will determine how safe, or not, the holidays are, she said.

On Monday, New Jersey reported 1,192 new cases, adding to 2,240 new cases from the weekend and 823 on Friday.

The New Jersey Alliance for Clinical and Translational Science (NJ ACTS) at Rutgers University received a $5 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to launch outreach campaigns and expand access to COVID-19 testing for underserved and vulnerable communities in the state.

The program, also known and NJ HEROES TOO, supports research that aims to better understand COVID-19 testing patterns among underserved and vulnerable populations, and they are are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 in places where Rutgers academic medical centers are deeply rooted, the university said. NJ ACTS partnered with community and health care organizations in Essex, Middlesex, Passaic and Union counties to co-design this study, it said.

“Much of the public attention with ‘front-line health care heroes’ has been focused on doctors and nurses,” Shawna Hudson, a medical socialist who is co-director of Community Engagement for the NJ ACTS and the study’s lead principal investigator, said in a statement.

Rutgers is one of 32 institutions that received an NIH award through the RADx-UP program to support projects designed to rapidly implement COVID-19 testing strategies in populations disproportionately affected by the pandemic. In addition to Blacks and Latinos, these groups include Native Americans, Native Alaskans, Native Hawaiians, older adults, pregnant women, and those who are homeless or incarcerated.

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