First cases of coronavirus with no clear origins found in NJ

Officials announced New Jersey’s eight new coronavirus cases — half of them in Bergen County, two in Middlesex County and two in Monmouth County. Tests pointed to a disturbing new pattern called community spread. Two of the new cases have no known connection to an infected person or place.

“Community spread indicates that the coronavirus is amongst us, and we have an expectation that that may be the case,” said New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.

Facing the possibility that the coronavirus has escaped containment, health officials stepped up mitigation plans. To protect vulnerable residents, the state’s restricting access to long-term and acute care care facilities, as recommended by the Center for Medicare and Medicare Services. Beyond that, the health commissioner warned of more widespread interventions.

“Such as widespread school closures, cancelling of events and controlling sporting events — all of that will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Our guidance right now is to encourage people to limit those types of activities as much as possible,” she said.

But what should people avoid? She said political rallies and concerts, for example.

“Concerts are close quarters and people are enjoying the concert, but also singing and coughing, things like that. You just don’t want to expose yourself,” Persichilli said.

Officials know many local clinics and first responders lack necessary personal protective equipment, like masks.

“If a surge occurs, which we expect it may, I think we will be certainly constrained in our availability of supplies,” said Persichilli.

In New Brunwsick, Rutgers freshman Joey Delgado schlepped an over-stuffed suitcase to his car. He’s one of about 70,000 Rutgers students ordered to leave campus to avoid the coronavirus.

“I mean I think they handled it the right way. That’s kind of what every university’s been doing,” he said.

Classes will resume online-only after spring break through at least April 3, according to Rutgers President Robert Barchi.

He wrote in a letter, “This is a difficult and extraordinary situation […] We have an imperative to do what we can to slow the spread of this serious virus and protect those who are most vulnerable …”

But some student worry.

“I don’t know what I would do without tutoring and talking to my friends in my classes, so when I’m on my own I’m kind of nervous,” said student Emma Rutkowski.

While the elderly are more vulnerable, Bergen County preemptively closed all its county-run senior activity centers until further notice. New Jersey coronavirus cases skew younger, according to health officials. The state’s first case, James Cai of Fort Lee, is only 32, and on Wednesday texted NJTV News, “I couldn’t take deep breath otherwise I will cough.”

He told WCBS that “every day it’s getting worse.”

Cai’s got no underlying health issues. He became ill after attending a medical conference in Manhattan. He sounded an alarm.

“A lot of people say it’s OK, don’t wear a mask. Don’t believe that. I maybe just caught a sneeze by somebody, and coronavirus,” he said to WCBS.

New York’s containment zone in New Rochelle encircles the epicenter of that coronavirus outbreak, which health official say probably started with attorney Lawrence Garbuz.

His wife Adina posted on Facebook, “As someone whom I think speaks from a place where bad thoughts could run wild, I implore you all not to do so. We are in very unchartered waters with this virus and unknowns are scary but we also know quarantines and testing are helping.”

As schools and government agencies circle the wagons, residents are urged to stock up for a two week quarantine. Officials keep emphasizing to avoid crowds if you can.