With new COVID-19 cases rapidly rising across Burlington County and New Jersey during the pandemic’s second wave, Burlington County Health Director Dr. Herb Conaway and Freeholder Dan O’Connell are calling on local residents to shake off “coronavirus fatigue” and strictly adhere to social-distancing restrictions and quarantining guidance.
“The second wave is here and we’re seeing an alarming increase in the number of positive cases across the county,” said Dr. Conaway said. “Even as cases surge, our Health Department is experiencing a lot of resistance from people concerning contact tracing and even quarantining. This behavior is unacceptable and puts us all at greater risk from what remains a dangerous epidemic. It cannot continue.”
“The last eight months have been extremely difficult on all of us. It’s upended our lives and forced us to make adjustments that were unimaginable even a year ago,” said Freeholder O’Connell, who is the board’s liaison to the Department of Health. “I know everyone is experiencing COVID fatigue, but now is not the time for folks to become lax and let down their guard. We’ve come too far already and there are too many lives still at stake.”
Strict compliance with quarantining guidance is among the most critical of actions residents must do to contain the spread of the highly contagious pathogen, Conaway said.
Individuals should isolate or quarantine for the following reasons:
- Have tested positive for the COVID-19 after undergoing a diagnostic/virus test (Such individuals should self-isolate at home for a minimum 10 days and are fever free for at least 24 hours and other symptoms are significantly improved);
- Have had close contact with someone who has COVID-19 -- defined as being within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative period of 15 minutes or longer (These individuals should quarantine for 14 days or longer if they live in the same household, regardless of whether they themselves test positive or negative);
- Have traveled to one of the numerous states or territories with significant community spread of COVID-19. (Returning individuals should quarantine for 14 days.)
Conaway stressed that even residents who feel healthy or test negative should remain in quarantine and not leave home except to obtain medical care or essential items such as food and health supplies.
“The guidance is clear: Being symptom free or testing negative for the virus does not mean you do not need to quarantine for the full 14 days,” Conaway said. “The virus has an incubation period of up to two weeks, and a negative diagnostic test does not mean you are safe to have contacts with others until the incubation period is over.”
“Likewise, even residents who feel healthy can still be asymptomatic spreaders,” he added. “I cannot emphasize this enough: if you are instructed to quarantine, please do so. We cannot contain this disease unless everyone does their part and strictly complies.”
In addition to obeying quarantine instructions, O’Connell said residents need to be more vigilant about wearing masks properly – so that it covers both your mouth and your nose -- while in public and with following social-distancing guidelines. Cooperation with contact tracing must also improve.
“With the number of positive cases rising so fast, our ability to contact trace is being strained,” O’Connell said. “It makes cooperation with our efforts that much more important. We need to be able to trace all positive contacts and do so quickly so people who may have potentially been exposed are alerted and know to quarantine.”
He encouraged all residents to download New Jersey’s free COVID Alert NJ app to assist with contact tracing efforts. The secure mobile app is available at https://covid19.nj.gov/pages/app and can anonymously alerts users if they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
“The app is another tool in our fight. Only upon permission provided by a COVID-19 positive individual will the anonymous alert be sent to the close contacts of the authorizing individual,” Conaway said. “Only about 14% of us need to use COVID Alert NJ to have a significant impact on crushing COVID. So please, join me in using the app.”