FEDERAL CORONAVIRUS TESTING SITES EXTENDED THROUGH MAY
Smith spearheaded bipartisan letter signed by colleagues to FEMA & HHS on April 4
The federal government will continue to run and support two free coronavirus test sites in New Jersey despite original plans to turn them over to state and local authorities, said Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), who led congressional efforts to keep the sites open beyond today, Friday, April 10, the date federal emergency officials had planned to leave.
“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,” said Smith, who represents the Holmdel, NJ federal testing site at the PNC Arts Center. The other site is in Paramus, NJ at Bergen Community College.
“FEMA’s original plan would have had them pulling up stakes and gone by tomorrow, April 11th, but now they will stay fully operational—conducting about 500 coronavirus tests a day—at least through the end of May 2020.” Smith’s letter was cosigned by nearly all of the congressional delegation, and the Governor made the issue a priority as well.
Click here to read Smith’s April 4 letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). (PICTURED BOTTOM RIGHT)
“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,” Smith said.
Along with Smith and Gottheimer, other cosigners included: 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.
Although testing in NJ can also be done by local medical offices and county sites, such as the one in Ocean County which Smith helped launch last month, the two sites at issue are Community-Based Testing Sites set up by FEMA and the State, and are the main federal presence in the Garden State for testing.
The drive-thru test sites were opened at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ on March 23rd and Bergen Community College in Paramus, NJ on March 20th, and have tested over an estimated 6,500 people by the first week of April. The New Jersey Department of Health has reported that the pandemic is growing and not yet peaked and is expected to worsen in the coming weeks, after the anticipated transition of these sites on April 10.
Additionally, two weeks ago the member of the New Jersey Congressional delegation petitioned FEMA to open a third testing site—this time in South Jersey—as the number of cases in the southern counties is rising, as mentioned at the press conference. FEMA has yet to respond to that request.