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Atlantic City and NJ Department of Health launch COVID-19 testing program for seniors

Atlantic City and NJ Department of Health launch COVID-19 testing program for seniors

Jeffries Tower

The Charles P. Jeffries Tower is one of several elderly and disabled housing sites owned and operated by the Atlantic City Housing Authority.

ATLANTIC CITY — The resort is part of a state Department of Health program to provide testing for some of the most vulnerable residents in urban areas.

The state has teamed with Optum, a Minnesota-based health care company, to set up mobile coronavirus testing units at senior housing facilities in urban areas around New Jersey.

In addition to Atlantic City, the state is also testing senior residents in Paterson, Camden, Elizabeth, Trenton and Newark.

Since testing began Sept. 25, 474 COVID-19 tests have been conducted at facilities in Atlantic City and Pleasantville. There have been three positive cases in at the area sites as a result of the testing program, according to state officials.

“We saw an area of need in the city, and we wanted to commit resources to it,” said Dr. Nashon Hornsby, who serves as the Department of Health’s assistant commissioner in the Community Health Division.

Teams from the state department have completed testing for senior citizens at Jeffries Towers, Inlet Towers, Altman Terrace Complex and the Shore Park High Rise, said Lisa Ryan, spokesperson for the state Department of Community Affairs, which oversees the day-to-day operation of the city.

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Since the start of the program in late August, the state has tested more than 1,200 residents and only had five positives statewide as of Wednesday.

“This is a low rate, which is good to see,” Hornsby said.

Seniors have been impacted by the ongoing pandemic more than other age groups.

“All health experts agree that seniors are the most susceptible to the virus,” said Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small Sr. “The state offered the program, and it’s a positive for the city.”

Of the state’s more than 201,552 cases, residents over the age of 50 accounted for 98,114 of the total cases, nearly half of the state’s cases. Those in the sam e age bracket have made up 15,305 of the 16,097 probable deaths.

Health officials did not have a total cost for the program, however they said it would be covered through federal COVID-19 relief funds. The program is scheduled to run until the end of October, but Hornsby believes it will stretch through the end of the year.

“The city of Atlantic City quickly set up COVID-19 testing sites for city residents at Bader Field and the Showboat parking lot and made testing available for nearly five months,” Ryan said. “When the city’s testing sites wound down last month as the State of New Jersey’s coronavirus numbers steadily improved, the New Jersey Department of Health stepped in to continue testing for senior citizens, who are a segment of the population most vulnerable to COVID-19.”

Testing was made available to residents, caretakers and children within each facility only, Ryan said.

“The goal is to expand testing to all senior citizens living in Atlantic City,” Ryan said. “In addition, the DOH, in collaboration with Atlantic County, the city of Atlantic City, AtlantiCare and the Atlantic City Rescue Mission also has piloted testing of persons experiencing homelessness at the Atlantic City Rescue Mission, Madison Hotel and Renaissance Plaza.”

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