Local doctor notices quick uptick in the number of positive test results and that sets in motion an effort to contain further spread of the disease
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By Michael Hill
After a recent trip to Florida — one of the states on New Jersey’s coronavirus hotspot list — Ben Segall got tested for COVID-19. The test came back negative, but he says he wanted to be safe.
“I just knew that I didn’t want to get my friends and family sick, so I wanted to make sure everything was OK,” he said.
But, per Gov. Phil Murphy’s orders, Segall is still required to quarantine
“Regardless of their tests being negative they still need to quarantine for 14 days, still need to maintain social distancing like everybody else and still need to wear their masks as well. Just because their test is negative doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not infected because they could be falling into that grey area. The incubation period is 14 days,” said Dr. Gaurang Brahmbhatt, chief medical officer at Riverside Medical Group in Hoboken.
Brahmbhatt also strongly recommends travelers get tested within four to seven days.
Recently, travelers from Morris and Sussex counties to a wedding in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina tested positive for COVID-19. And 12 out of 13 new cases in Hoboken are a result of people traveling to states on New Jersey’s quarantine list, including Florida, Texas and the Carolinas, officials say.
Noticing an uptick in positives
Some of the COVID-19 cases from southern states were discovered at Riverside Medical Group, which does testing for the virus by appointment Monday through Saturday.
“I, myself, noticed it about two weeks ago. We had six days of zero positives, and then all of sudden one day we had six, one day we had four so I kind of stood up and said what’s happening here. What happened?” Brahmbhatt said.
The doctor reported the spike to Hoboken Mayor Ravinder S. Bhalla who urged the public to heed the governor’s travel warnings.
The spike points to New Jersey losing ground in the COVID-19 battle as the rate of transmission — or how many others each person with the virus infects — is edging up instead of down. Now, it’s back higher than 1.
Murphy often has cited COVID Act Now’s data collection of the virus. Monday, the group said the Garden State is still among the best in handling the outbreak.
“New Jersey is one of the states right now that’s actually seeing a decrease on net in active COVID cases, which of course is such a marked departure from two, two and a half months ago. The whole tristate area, in fact, is doing comparatively well, to the Floridas, the Arizonas, the Texases of the U.S.,” said Jonathan Kreiss-Tompkins, policy lead at COVID Act Now.
On Sunday, the governor went on “Meet the Press” and said it was time to mandate face coverings nationwide in America. Montclair State University epidemiologist Stephanie Silvera agrees.
“We are seeing a number of people who are pre-symptomatic, or with mild symptoms, who don’t recognize them as COVID and we’re seeing that that is how, very often, this virus is being spread,” Silvera said.
Silvera is among the scientists who thinks the coronavirus remains infectious in aerosolized particles longer than the World Health Organization says. “For me, the key message is when you’re indoors the risk is much higher than if you’re outdoors. And so even if you can be six feet away indoors, you really need to be wearing some sort of face covering,” she said.
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