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NJ’s five centers for adults with developmental disabilities to implement COVID-19 saliva-based tests from Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences

State-run residential facilities for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities will implement COVID-19 saliva-based testing developed by Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, officials said on Thursday.

The New Jersey Department of Human Services will use the tests as part of its strategy to do universal testing of all staff and residents the state’s five developmental centers, which have about 1,250 residents and 4,300 staff members. The state is working to expand this pilot program and is exploring options to test additional state workers and individuals in the state’s care. 

“A robust and aggressive testing program is vital in order for us to protect our most vulnerable populations and contain future outbreaks of COVID-19,”  Governor Phil Murphy said. “Rutgers University’s FDA-approved saliva-based test system will significantly expand our testing capability by providing rapid results and the critical data necessary to determine when we can safely reopen New Jersey. I am grateful for our partnership with Rutgers University and incredibly proud of their innovative breakthrough to help New Jersey defeat this virus.” 

Brian Strom, chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, said the school is proud to partner with the state to expand testing.

“Rutgers RUCDR’s new saliva-based test is a game-changer in terms of expanding testing nationwide and we’re awaiting FDA approval of the test for self-collection at home, which will only further increase the number of screenings,” Strom said.

State officials said the New Jersey Human Services Department has been focused on prevention and mitigation in the developmental centers through restricting visitors, ceasing community outings, conducting staff screening including temperature taking, and reviewing infection control, cleaning and cohorting procedures.

“As we work to expand testing across the state, we will be prioritizing the most vulnerable populations like those who reside in these centers,” New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said.