Published April 28, 2020
Earlier this week, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy outlined a plan to reopen the state that focuses on testing instead of timelines. His plan to safely rollback New Jersey’s lockdown restrictions wouldn’t be possible without the COVID-19 saliva test developed by Rutgers researchers and recently granted emergency FDA approval.
“Testing is the new linchpin to begin to return to normalcy,” said Brian Strom, chancellor Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, during the governor’s briefing on Thursday, April 23. Strom added that the saliva test is currently being administered to 10,000 people a day and will rapidly scale from there.
“Brian Strom and his team have been leading a pioneering saliva test-based COVID-19 test protocol that is being held up as a model not just in our state, but nationally,” Murphy said. He went on to say that the new saliva protocol will more than double the amount of daily testing in New Jersey. “This testing system is already going into wide use by our state’s largest health care systems, at the PBA-sponsored first responder test sites, and soon at many other places statewide.”
Murphy said New Jersey’s stay-at-home and business closure orders will need to remain in place indefinitely until they can be gradually lifted without a resurgence in cases and deaths. Currently, a total of 5,368 people have died in New Jersey, which has at least 99,989 COVID-19 cases.
Projections out of the state’s health department call for 20,000 to 30,000 tests a day to get a handle on the COVID pandemic, which dwarfs the 7,000 to 9,000 swab tests that are currently being administered. The goal is to have much of this testing in place by the end of May.
“I want to point out that the citizens of New Jersey can be proud of their state university,” Strom said. “We’ve been tracking and anticipating this epidemic since early January when it became apparent. We invoked our emergency operations center in late February, meeting weekly, and then daily, to make coordinated decisions in real-time across our massive institution.”
The new saliva test is the result of a partnership between Rutgers’ RUCDR Infinite Biologics and Spectrum Solutions and Accurate Diagnostic Labs (ADL). The test is safer for health care professionals to administer than the current method of nose and throat swabs and allows for broader population screening as well as results in less than 48 hours.
“This is a tremendous point of Jersey pride for us all,” said Murphy. “Our state, after all, is the historic home of innovations, especially in the life sciences, and now we have a huge breakthrough coming from our very own flagship university.