By ERIN ROLL
New Jersey residents will soon be able to test themselves for COVID-19 at home, while people who have recovered from COVID-19 will soon be able to donate plasma at two new collection sites in Essex County.
RUCDR Infinite Biologics, which is affiliated with Rutgers University, has developed an at-home saliva testing kit for COVID-19.
On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration granted an emergency use authorization for the test, according to a statement released late Friday by the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management.
The test will allow for more widespread testing than the test currently in use, which involves nasal swabs conducted by health care professionals. There is another saliva-based test which was also recently approved for use, but which is conducted at designated locations by health care staff.
RUCDR officials have not yet specified when the test will become available to the general public.
On Friday, officials also announced that New Jersey’s community testing sites would begin allowing people who were asymptomatic to seek testing, but that priority would go to health care providers, people in congregate living settings, and people who had come into contact with someone who had COVID-19.
Rite Aid announced on Friday it will also expand its nasal swab testing to asymptomatic residents. In New Jersey, the closest Rite Aid offering the test will be Waldwick.
The announcement of the saliva test arrives just as the Red Cross prepares to start accepting plasma donations in New Jersey, in the hopes of using antibodies to develop treatment for COVID-19, said Gov. Phil Murphy.
Two plasma collection sites will open later this month: in Essex County at the Red Cross building in Fairfield, and University Hospital in Newark. Both will officially start collecting on May 11.
“By opening two convalescent plasma collections sites in North Jersey, where there is a concentration of the state’s highest infection rates and deaths, the American Red Cross can identify more donors and better serve patients in need of this therapy,” Murphy said. “ I am extremely grateful to the partnership between the American Red Cross and University Hospital for their collaboration in bringing convalescent plasma collection and therapy together for the benefit of our fellow New Jerseyans.”
Murphy mentioned that Essex County was one of the hardest-hit counties in the state, with the highest number of deaths and the third-highest number of positive cases.
Residents who wish to become donors may apply through the Red Cross’s website.
As of Saturday, May 9, state health officials reported 1,759 new COVID-19 positive cases, down from the 1,985 new cases reported yesterday, and bringing the state total to 137,085.
The positivity rate of the 137,085 total test results to date is also on the decline, standing at 38.7 percent today, May 8. In April, the positivity rate was at 58 percent
State officials reported 166 additional deaths, up from the 162 deaths reported on Friday, bringing the state total to 9,116.
Lillian DeMarco, who grew up in Montclair before moving to Lake Hiawatha with her family, died this week due to complications with COVID-19. She worked with AT&T and Bell until her retirement in 1990. Her family members told Murphy she was fond of puzzles and card games, and could often be found with a deck of cards or a set of rummy cubes.
At 10 p.m. on Friday, 4,628 people were hospitalized, down 130 from the 4,498 patients 24 hours before. Of that number, 1,416 were in critical care, and 1,054 ventilators were in use. Last night, 422 new patients were discharged, while 364 new patients entered hospitals. At 10 p.m. Thursday, fewer patients (4,605 ) were in the hospital with COVID-19, of whom 1,439 were in critical care, and 1,089 ventilators were in use. On Thursday, hospitals admitted a total of 334 new patients, up from the 325 reported on Wednesday, and discharged 464 patients, about the same number on Wednesday.
“We are not out of the woods yet, folks, let’s not forget that,” Murphy said.
At 9 a.m. Saturday, Essex County officials were reporting 15,544 total COVID-19 cases and 1,418 deaths, an increase of 192 cases and 16 deaths.
Montclair health officials reported today, May 9, the confirmed number of COVID-19 cases in Montclair increased from yesterday’s count of 385 to 387; the number of individuals who did not survive the illness remains at 45.