While students enrolled at Camden County College in Blackwood work strictly from home during the coronavirus pandemic, their campus is expected to fulfill a more important need.
According to Camden County Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr, the college is currently the sole planned testing site for the coronavirus within the county, chosen primarily for its “centrality.”
Shortly after school districts switched to remote learning and Gov. Phil Murphy issued pandemic guidelines for businesses and residents, the county put up tents at the college to provide testing. The only problem, according to Cappelli, is that the county still lacks the very test kits needed to make the site operational.
“We are working day and night to secure the testing kits and equipment we need to get this site up and running,” Cappelli said. “The simple truth is that counties and states across the country are all trying to acquire the same supplies from an already limited supply.
“As soon as we have access to what we need, we’re prepared to open the site.”
Despite the lack of tests, Cappelli says the county hopes to be able to test everyone in its population once test kits are available. Until then, the Gloucester Township campus will operate, at least in the beginning, as a way to attend to those already exhibiting symptoms.
“Right now, most drive-thru sites in the country require the patient to be exhibiting symptoms and potentially have a prescription from a physician,” Cappelli explained. “The potential testing load (of people per day) will depend entirely on the number of test kits we are able to have on hand.
“I’d like to see everyone in Camden County be able to be tested, but there just aren’t enough test kits available for that right now.”
Cappelli says the county has worked tirelessly with the state to obtain resources that can help make the college site operational, as well as other aid. But he adds that the response from the federal level has been disappointing.
“The (Camden County) Health Department has been in constant communication with the state health department and the state has done everything it can to help us, while also diverting resources to the areas being hit the hardest, like in Bergen County,” Cappelli says. “At the federal level, the (Trump) administration was slow to respond and has not done nearly enough to help get testing kits and PPE (personal protective equipment) out into the hands of local health departments.
“That’s a big part of what’s holding us back.”
Moving forward, Cappelli says it’s important that residents continue to practice proper social distancing procedures to slow spread of the virus.
“If you believe you have symptoms, you should self-quarantine immediately, regardless of if you’ve been tested,” Cappelli advises. “We are at a pivotal moment right now in our fight against the virus.
“We all need to stay home as much as possible if we’re going to flatten the curve and win this war.”
Each day, the county receives more information on individuals who test positive for COVID-19 that they then share. Cappelli says the increase in positive tests can be attributed to the fact that more testing is being done, which is why additional testing on a grand scale is so important.
“We know there are more cases out there than what’s been confirmed,” Cappelli says. “That’s why testing is so important. We will continue to update our residents each day as the numbers change.
“The important thing to realize is that new cases don’t mean social distancing isn’t working, New cases are largely a function of increased testing at this stage.”