The resident, a health professional from Cherry Hill, felt ill while traveling to Colorado last week, officials say. She is quarantining at home. The first patient presumed to have the virus has recovered from it.
By Matt Skoufalos | March 13, 2020
A second Camden County resident is presumed to have contracted novel coronavirus (COVID-19), according to county government officials.
In a press conference Friday, Camden County Freeholder-Director Lou Cappelli announced that the patient, a Cherry Hill woman in her 60s, began having symptoms in Colorado on March 5, and flew to Philadelphia two days later.
Since returning, the woman, a private-practice medical professional, has been quarantined at home. Only her spouse and the friend with whom she traveled potentially have been exposed to the virus, Cappelli said. Broader investigation of the flight remains with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
“The patient is in the 60s, and is doing well, thankfully,” he said.
The first patient to test presumed positive has recovered, but can’t go home yet because of the presumption of risk to others there, Cappelli said.
Ten Camden County residents are self-monitoring and self-quarantined “because they’ve traveled to areas of high risk” of contracting the virus, Cappelli said. Another 18 have completed a voluntary two-week self-quarantine.
The freeholder-director expressed his frustration that “there are not an adequate number of tests for our residents.
“Based on all the research I’ve seen, the battles on the frontline are really fought on the testing stage,” Cappelli said. “When you see what’s happening now in South Korea and China, with the rapid testing, you’re starting to see a decline in the number of new cases. We as a nation need to get to that point. We’re not there yet.”
Only nine Camden County residents have been tested for COVID-19, a low figure attributable to the absence of tests for the virus, Cappelli said.
“It might sound like these numbers are so low that we shouldn’t be concerned,” he said. “We don’t know how many people in Camden County, the state of New Jersey, in the United States, have this virus. There simply is not enough testing kits in the medical community for people to be tested.”
Camden County Health Officer Paschal Nwako stressed that the general risk to residents of Camden County “is low or minimal.” He advised that there are no cases of COVID-19 in any of the school systems of Camden County, and that the decision to close any district “rests with the body having direction for the school.
“We are not recommending closing down schools, but the school systems should decide how to proceed,” Nwako said.
(A number of districts announced plans for closings or remote education this week.)
“There is no cause for panic at this time,” said Camden County Health Department Director Anne Walters, while urging residents “to continue to practice good hygiene, hand-washing, social distancing, avoiding large crowds, covering your mouth if you have to cough or sneeze, and not going to work if you’re not feeling well.”
The county government likely will reduce its staff to a skeleton crew in the coming days, and is already discontinuing activities for seniors, Cappelli said.
“Non-essential employees, we’re going to start looking at them and coming up with a plan to keep people at home to reduce the risk of this virus,” he said.
It will likely be some time before federal relief is made available for people who miss work due to COVID-19. For local businesses, “this is an instant recession,” but a price that must be paid for public health, Cappelli said.
“As a nation, the next two weeks are very crucial,” he said.
Read our ongoing round-up of COVID-19 coverage here.
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