COVID-19 Coronavirus: What New Jersey Needs to Know
With concerns about the COVID-19 coronavirus often outpacing the spread of the potentially deadly disease, it's important New Jerseyans be able to separate truth from fiction and have critical information available quickly.
With that in mind, WPG offers the following guide.
Has the COVID-19 coronavirus reached New Jersey?
As of Monday, March 2, there are no known cases of COVID-19 coronavirus in New Jersey. A patient put in isolation in late February, and treated at a Monmouth County hospital, tested negative for the disease, as did other patients tested weeks earlier. The CDC tested and cleared passengers on a cruise ship docked in New Jersey earlier that month. A number of students at Princeton University were briefly self-isolated after recent travel to China.
By contrast, the state has reported two pediatric deaths from influenza since October and between 4 to 6% of all weekly deaths this season have been attributed to the flu or pneumonia.
Is it nearby?
New York is the first neighboring state with a confirmed case of coronavirus, announced Sunday, March 1. State officials said that patient, a woman in her 30s, was doing well and not in serious condition.
Where can I get more information quickly?
The state Department of Health has put together a guide to the disease, sometimes called COVID-2019, the new coronavirus or the novel cornovirus, to distinguish it from other forms of coronavirus The state also runs a hotline at 800-222-1222.
WPG issues push alerts about breaking news, including about coronavirus, on its free app.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus? How dangerous is it?
Information on coronavirus is still developing quickly, as scientists worldwide continue to study it and the outbreak that began in 2019.
COVID-2019, the infection associated with the outbreak, arose from the area of Wuhan, China in December, the New Jersey notes in its own resource guide. It has since spread to several other countries, with 89,000 people diagnosed worldwide and 3,000 deaths reported as of Monday.
Comparatively few of those are in the United States, though health officials warn that could change quickly. As of March 2, there were 43 confirmed cases in the U.S., and two deaths, according to the CDC. Cases had been reported in 10 states.
For most patients, COVID-2019 presents as a respiratory illness, with symptoms similar to that of a cold or flu: fever, cough and shortness of breath.
In mid-February, the CDC said the mortality rate for the coronavirus was 2.3 percent — meaning most infected people will recover, though it's deadlier than the typical flu.
What should I do if I think I may have COVID-19 coronavirus?
Contact your health provider immediately. Even if you don't have the new coronavirus, you may have another respiratory infection that needs treatment. If after a screening you're thought to be potentially infected with the virus, you'll get tested.
New Jersey can now test for the disease itself, and hospital systems are working on tests as well — which should mean quicker results.
How does coronavirus spread?
The first infections in China were linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now spreading person to person, like many respiratory diseases, according to the CDC.
"The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”) in some affected geographic areas," the CDC states in its resource guide. "Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected."
You're more likely to get it after travel to a country that's seen a significant outbreak, or after contact with someone who has, though it has begun spreading more broadly in some communities and is expected to continue to do so.
Should I avoid people from certain countries?
The CDC stresses most people in the U.S. have little immediate risk of exposure to COVID-19.
"Fear and anxiety can lead to social stigma towards Chinese or other Asian Americans. Stigma and discrimination can occur when people associate an infectious disease, such as COVID-19, with a population or nationality, even though not everyone in that population or from that region is specifically at risk for the disease (for example, Chinese-Americans and other Asian-Americans living in the United States)," it says in its resource guide.
People who have not been in areas associated with the spread of the disease, or in contact with those who have, regardless of their ethnic origin or heritage, do not pose a greater risk of spreading the disease than anyone else.
The CDC also stresses people who have returned from areas with an oingoing spread of COVID-19, but who've been back for more than 14 days without symptoms, are not infected and contact with them will not give you the virus.
What areas have seen the most spread of the disease?
The CDC maintains an updated list of areas that have seen widespread or sustained COVID-19 transmission. As of early March, it was recommending travelers avoid all non-essential travel to China, Iran, South Korean and Italy.
It also recommended older adults and those with chronic medical conditions avoid Japan, and said travelers should practice "usual precautions" in Hong Kong.
How else can I avoid getting coronavirus, or spreading it to anyone else?
It sounds simple, but wash your hands — thoroughly and often.
The CDC also recommends practices similar to those used to avoid any respiratory illness:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
Should I get a facemask? I hear they're selling out at many stores.
According to the CDC, facemasks aren't helpful for most people to protect themselves from diseases, including COVID-19.
However, it said people who show symptoms of the disease should use facemasks to help prevent transmission to others, as should certain healthcare workers.
What else should I do to prepare?
This list from Homeland Security gives advice on supplies to keep handy during any kind of pandemic or major outbreak.
Is New Jersey ready if there's an outbreak here?
A report by Trust for America's Health examined 10 key health security indicators and gave states a high, middle or low rating.
“New Jersey ranked well, very well, for the second year in a row New Jersey was among 25 states in the high performance tiers, so you have a high level of readiness to deal with public health emergencies," a spokesperson told the Townsquare News Network.
That doesn't guarantee there won't be spread of the virus here. But the report found New Jersey was prepared to borrow resources as needed from other states. It found room for improvement in the way the state communicates emergency resources to lower-income populations.
How has the virus affected New Jersey so far?
Mostly, through acts taken out of caution.
For instance, Trenton cancelled its Chinese (Lunar) New Year celebration for 2020. City officials said many who had planned to take part in the event were traveling from mainland China, where health concerns have spurred travel restrictions.
Expect to see other event cancellations and adjustments as officials and organizers proceed with caution.
In another case, stepped-up precautions cancelled a couple's wedding aboard a cruise ship.
Newark Liberty International Airport was also added to the list of ports of entries with stepped-up passenger screenings for the virus.
If New Jersey hasn't been hit yet, are we in the clear?
No one knows where coronavirus will spread next, or how much more severe the outbreak will get. So don't panic — but also, be vigilant.
Health officials stress most of the precautions they recommend are the same ones they suggest for warding off more common ailments, like the flu — and it's been a nasty flu season, with some health systems seeing about double the cases they did last year.
What does this mean for the economy?
No one knows yet. Many trade shows have been cancelled to avoid a mass of international travelers in one place, and some supply lines have been affected.
Ken Kamen, president of Mercer County-based Mercadien Asset Management, told the Townsquare News Network fear is key here, "but I would caution people (not) to get too excited at the moment, because we don't really know the long- term causes of this disease."
He said caution makes sense — for instance, it might be wise to move some money out of stocks and into the bank — but said not to panic about the recent drop in the stock market connected to coronavirus.