CHERRY HILL, N.J. (CBS) — Officials say the second wave is here and current COVID-19 infection rates are higher than they were earlier in the pandemic. There’s now an increased demand for testing.
As cars wait in line, Camden County officials say COVID-19 testing capabilities are much stronger than they were at the beginning of the pandemic.
The Camden County College’s Cherry Hill campus site is available to county residents, pending certain criteria.
“Our concerns are that a lot more people are going to get sick and need hospitalization,” Camden County Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr. said.
Health officials say there were 1,000 new cases in Camden County last week, and 3,500 across New Jersey. That number is expected to rise.
“We’ve been down this road before and Camden County residents did a great job bending the curve. We have to get that effort going again,” Cappelli Jr. said.
With the holidays right around the corner, health experts want to reiterate practicing common sense precautions and staying away from large gatherings, particularly in poorly-ventilated areas.
Taking the extra step of getting tested is also a good idea.
“Especially if you’re thinking of going somewhere on Thanksgiving, to anybody’s house. Please get tested before you go. Know that you’re not infected prior to going to somebody’s house,” Cappelli Jr. said.
To further help combat the spike, Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order giving municipalities and counties the option of regulating the operating hours of non-essential businesses after 8 p.m.
With the new mandate, local officials have another tool to combat community-based increases.
“We’ve received numerous reports that as the night progresses people begin to congregate, let their guard down and take fewer precautions,” Murphy said.
At the beginning of the pandemic, there were three testing sites open in Camden County. This is the first that’s being reopened and officials expect there will be more down the road.
The one at the Camden County College Cherry Hill campus will be open Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and on the weekends from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Keep in mind, it is by appointment only.
The rising number of COVID-19 cases in the region is leading health experts to call for action.
“This is quickly becoming a catastrophic situation,” Dr. David Rubin said.
Speaking to Eyewitness News, Dr. David Rubin, with the PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, says their models show the coronavirus could soon overwhelm hospitals in the area.
He says there is now evidence the virus is circulating in schools. That has prompted the PolicyLab to recommend that all schools in the region switch to virtual learning by this coming Monday with no more in-person learning until the first of the year.
“This is literally about getting thru the winter season so we are not facing a crisis of people not being able to gain access to the emergency room department,” Dr. Rubin said.
The recommendation came Wednesday — on the same day Pennsylvania set a record for its biggest daily increase of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.
Sources tell Eyewitness News the recent spike in cases has resulted in Delaware County hospitals diverting patients.
Those sources say all patients sent to Delaware County hospitals on Monday had to be rerouted to other facilities in neighboring counties. Those in the emergency room are also seeing increased wait times, and first responders have also been testing positive for the virus in increasing numbers.
Meantime, happening Thursday in Montgomery County, the board of health will meet to vote on whether to move schools to entirely virtual learning for two weeks starting on Nov. 23.
“I’m very nervous. A lot of teachers that I spoke to, they’re nervous. They don’t necessarily agree with going back.” a South Jersey teacher said.
This South Jersey teacher — who asked not to be identified — is set to return to the classroom on Monday.
“If you open and kids or somebody gets exposed now you’re closing down the school for a couple weeks, and then you go back and it gets closed again,” she said.
The CHOP PolicyLab’s recommendation for schools is only a recommendation. Individual districts make the decision on whether to go virtual or not.
Meantime, for more information or to schedule an appointment for COVID-19 testing, call 856-968-7100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
CBS3’s Jan Carabeo and Alecia Reid contributed to this report.
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