Virtua Health will open a coronavirus testing center next week for residents of highly impacted Willingboro — the community with the most cases and deaths in Burlington County.
The center will be the second public testing center in the county but the first to be operated by Virtua.
Virtua Health will conduct COVID-19 screening and testing on its Sunset Road campus starting Monday, from noon to 4 p.m. on weekdays, the health care provider announced Friday.
While coronavirus case numbers continued to rise as of Friday afternoon in South Jersey, Camden, Cumberland and Salem counties reported no new deaths from the highly contagious virus since Thursday; Gloucester County reported four new deaths and Burlington County reported two deaths.
Gov. Phil Murphy said at his daily briefing that the curve of increased cases and deaths is beginning to flatten in every region of the state.
"There is no doubt, " he said, urging people not to become complacent and to continue to adhere to social distancing, the stay-at-home order and other guidelines because "they are working."
With 31,000 residents, Willingboro is one of Burlington County's most populated municipalities and also has the highest percentage of African Americans, at 60 percent. Early coronavirus statistics indicate African Americans are disproportionately impacted by the outbreak.
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The decision to open a Willingboro center follows what the announcement conversations between Virtua CEO and President Dennis Pullin and Senator Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, and also amid repeated calls for it by U.S. Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., another advocate of additional testing in the county.
“We were seeing an alarming number of coronavirus cases in Willingboro, significantly higher than other parts of Burlington County, and we all just knew we had to do something,” Singleton said.
As of Friday night Willingboro had 241 reported cases and nine deaths — the most in the county.
The township also has a significant number of seniors, retired veterans and commuters who travel into New York and Philadelphia, many of whom who are essential workers, according to the assemblyman.
“While the world is being asked to social distance, it is more important than ever that we come together to face this pandemic and find solutions where we can,” said Virtua Health President Pullin. “
Adding this testing site as we learn of a higher incidence of the virus here in this community is a responsible and proactive way to accelerate identifying who has the virus and who needs isolation or treatment.”
This is Virtua’s third ambulatory COVID-19 testing site outside its five hospitals and seven emergency rooms. It operates two in Camden County — a public site in Camden and another in Voorhees exclusively for testing medical personnel and first responders.
“This is simply welcome news for the residents of Willingboro and all of us who want to help slow the spread of this virus,” added Singleton.
The new location is near a bus stop for easier access to residents without a car, Singleton said.
The Willingboro testing site, which will be open specifically for borough residents and to those referred by Virtua Health physicians. Residents can either make an appointment or walk up to the center, but those without appointments must undergo screening to determine if testing is appropriate.
Murphy and state health officials expressed concern Friday over the number of positive cases and deaths among workers and patients at long-term care facilities statewide. Earlier this week the state attorney general announced an investigation into those facilities.
Of the 3,840 deaths related to coronavirus in New Jersey so far, 40 percent or 1,530, have been reported from long-term care facilities.
At Friday's briefing, state Department of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli reported figures indicating that in Camden and Burlington counties — the most populated South Jersey counties — more than half of their COVID-19 death totals are connected to long-term care facilities. They occurred at 15 long-term care sites in Burlington County and 14 in Camden County.
In Camden County the long-term care fatality figure is 48 of its 58 deaths; in Burlington County, 32 of 56 deaths and in Gloucester eight of 22 deaths. Cumberland County has reported no long-term care deaths and only 3 cases at a total of two facilities.