MIDDLETOWN - Monmouth County has launched a new COVID-19 testing center at Brookdale Community College, giving residents who have been hard-pressed to find at-home tests another option to see if they have caught the virus.
The county is partnering with the New Jersey Department of Health and Vault Medical Services to offer both rapid tests from a nasal swab and a PCR test from saliva for free.
Residents "wanted a site where they can get back results quickly so they can get back to work and get back to their normal duties," Monmouth County Commissioner Thomas A. Arnone said.
The clinic at Brookdale’s Robert J. Collins Arena will be open at least three days a week through February. The arena has played a big role in the COVID fight, serving as a vaccine distribution site last year, as seen in the video at the top of this story. The county still distributes vaccines at Brookdale, but now at the Children's Learning Center from 2 to 6 p.m. every Tuesday there.
The new option comes as the omicron variant appears to be tailing off. Monmouth County reported 328 confirmed COVID-19 cases on Monday, down 87% from its peak on Jan. 5 and its lowest level since late November.
Health experts say testing is a key tool in the fight against the pandemic. It alerts people who have contracted the virus that they should quarantine, wear masks, and notify anyone they have been in contact with.
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Lawmakers, however, appeared to be caught flat-footed by omicron, a highly contagious variant that swept through New Jersey during the holiday season, sending residents searching far and wide for COVID tests often with futility.
Federal and state officials in recent weeks have taken steps to send testing kits to households. Most recently, the Biden administration said it would mail four free COVID-19 tests per residential address.
But, experts said, the government hasn't kept up with the virus; by the time the tests arrive, omicron could be waning.
"It's never too late to provide these tools," said Corey Basch, professor and chair of the Department of Publc Health at William Paterson University in Wayne. "But in this case, it's really clear that actions weren't taken swiftly enough, especially in the face of an emergency."
"For those who get the test after (omicron wanes)," she said, "I would encourage them to hold on to them because we unfortunately may be needing them again."
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How to get tested
Monmouth County is one of several counties in New Jersey that have partnered with the New Jersey Department of Health and Vault to expand their COVID testing programs.
Residents don't need an appointment. They can register with Vault when they arrive through their smart phones or one of Vault's devices.
The nasal rapid test results are available in about 15 minutes. The PCR saliva tests are sent to Vault's laboratory in Piscataway, which is expected to have results available within 48 hours, said Shawn Baxley, Vault's vice president, field operations.
The tests' costs are covered by the state.
The testing site will be open during the following hours in January:
Jan. 27 from 8 a.m. to noon
Jan. 28 from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Jan. 29 from 8 a.m. to noon
Jan. 31 from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
The testing site’s February hours are as follows:
Mondays from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Tuesdays from 8 a.m. to noon
Thursdays from 8 a.m. to noon
Friday, Feb. 11 from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 12 from 8 a.m. to noon
Friday, Feb. 18 from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Michael L. Diamond is a business reporter who has been writing about the New Jersey eocnomy and health care industry for more than 20 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: COVID testing at Brookdale Community College in Middletown NJ