Government, Rutgers University to Run Saliva-Based Tests For Coronavirus Detection

April 26, 2020 – New Jersey’s state-run residential facilities for adults with intellectual, learning and developmental abilities will be tested using the COVID-19 saliva-based test developed by Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS), the New Jersey Department of Human Services (DHS) said.

The announcement was made by Governor Phil Murphy together with Brian Strom, Chancellor of RBHS. It is in line with the government’s strategy of conducting more testing on the staff and residents of the said developmental centers. The centers have approximately 4,300 staff and 1,250 residents.

“We will be prioritizing the most vulnerable populations like those who reside in these centers,” Health Commissioner Judith M. Persichilli said.

The Department of Human Services has been working 24/7 to monitor the situation in order to support and protect individuals with developmental disabilities in New Jersey.

“Our work includes supporting COVID-19 testing for the New Jerseyans who call our developmental centers home and the critical staff who care for and support them,” said Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson.

Commissioner Johnson said they appreciate the opportunity to be able to work with Rutgers University as they provide support to the residents in this challenging time.

“A robust and aggressive testing program is vital in order to protect our most vulnerable populations and contain future outbreaks of COVID-19,” said Governor Murphy.

According to Governor Murphy, Rutgers University’s FDA-approved saliva-based test system will significantly expand New Jersey’s testing capability by providing rapid results. It shall also help determine when is the soonest time New Jersey can re-open.

The saliva-based test, developed specifically by Rutgers University Cell and DNA Repository, is expected to be a game-changer that could massively expand the number tests conducted nationwide.

Rutgers University is also awaiting FDA’s approval for the test to allow self-collection at home.

DHS continues to focus on prevention and mitigation in the centers. Current policies in place include restricted visits, canceled community outings, regular staff screening and taking of temperature, and review of infection control, cleaning and cohorting procedures.