BURLINGTON COUNTY, NJ — Burlington County has suspended its at-home coronavirus testing program as a new state report lists the risk for the virus as "high."
“Under the home testing program, residents were able to request a county-funded home test kit be sent directly to their home address. The kits were shipped overnight with instructions on how to schedule a Zoom tele-health meeting with a certified health care worker who would virtually oversee and instruct the resident about how to properly collect a saliva sample for shipment to Vault and the Rutgers lab for testing,” Burlington County Health Director Dr. Herb Conaway said. “The program was designed for homebound residents and those who were unable to travel to our fixed test site or mobile sites. Unfortunately, numerous people have requested the test kits but failed to return them with collected samples for testing, essentially keeping the kits until they decide they need them.”
He said that out of more than 2,400 home test kits that were issued, only about 900 have been returned with samples.
“This is not how the program was intended to work, and it is expending testing kits and financial resources that could be applied to our other testing programs, which have succeeded in testing over 16,000 people since March,” Conaway said. “For these reasons we have decided to suspend the home testing program until further notice while we undertake a review of the requested kits and arrange for them to be used or returned. Those who already have home test kits can still use them, and we encourage them to do so now for their own health and safety and the health and safety of those around them.”
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The county’s other testing programs include twice-a-week walk-up testing clinics in the parking lot of Rowan College at Burlington County in Mount Laurel, along with mobile clinics at locations throughout the county.
Testing will also begin next week at the county’s fixed testing site at the Burlington County Human Services Building, 750 Woodlane Road in Westampton. Samples will be collected three-days a week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will be done indoors to protect people from the cold and winter weather.
Access to the testing facility will be very limited, officials said. Those coming to the site should expect to remain in their vehicle after arrival and await a testing alert sent to your mobile phone. All county residents are eligible for the testing, along with people who work in the county or attend county schools.
As of Tuesday morning, there had been 12,960 cases of the coronavirus in Burlington County since the beginning of the pandemic, according to information from the Burlington County Health Department. There have been 508 confirmed deaths among county residents, and 54 probable deaths.
The state Department of Health's "COVID-19 Activity Level Report," which is issued weekly, says the coronavirus activity level rose from "moderate" to "high" over the past week in 18 New Jersey counties, including Camden County. Only three counties — Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland — remain at the "moderate" level.
New Jersey's statewide activity is also at a "high" level, the DOH said, now that New Jersey's new daily case total topped 4,000 on six of the last 10 days, the first time that's ever happened. It was the first time the Garden State hit that level since May. Read more here: Coronavirus Risk Rises To 'High' In 18 NJ Counties: Here's Where
The coronavirus risk rose to "high" in each of the counties because:
The new daily case rate in each of the counties rose to 10 or more per 100,000 people
The percent of COVID-like illnesses rose above 5.52 in each of the counties.
The percent of positive cases rose above 10.01.
Gov. Phil Murphy addressed the rise during an interview with CBS morning on Tuesday, saying New Jersey has been experiencing a "bad combination" of cold weather and pandemic fatigue in which too many people are letting their guard down.
With reporting by Tom Davis