The Carrier Clinic, which is located in the Belle Mead section of Montgomery Township, has had a COVID-19 outbreak that has affected at least 53 people.
Thirty staff members and 23 patients at the clinic have tested positive for COVID-19.
The Carrier Clinic is a specialized behavioral health facility owned by Hackensack Meridian Health. Officials said the clinic conducted universal testing of staff members after discovering a handful of cases early this week, uncovering many more cases among asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic staff and patients.
Hackensack Meridian Health has shut down the affected unit and relocated patients to other locations with medical isolation facilities. COVID-19 positive staff members are isolating in their homes, officials said.
“This outbreak is worrisome, in a vulnerable population that has difficulty social distancing, but it is not surprising, as cases rates are growing exponentially across New Jersey,” Montgomery Health Officer Stephanie Carey said. “The second wave is upon us and we all have to do everything in our power to keep masking, keep distancing, and keep out of large gatherings.”
Montgomery’s Health Department representatives met virtually with Carrier leadership to assure that the clinic has implemented New Jersey Department of Health infection control protocols and that Hackensack Meridian Health is providing the resources needed to stop this outbreak.
In a statement to the press, representatives from Hackensack Meridian Health said the company is actively monitoring the increase in community spread of COVID-19 throughout its facilities entire in New Jersey, including the Carrier Clinic.
“The cluster is currently confined to two units and impacts 23 patients and 30 team members, reads the press statement. “All patients who tested positive are being transferred to other Hackensack Meridian Health hospitals, where they will receive seamless care for COVID-19 and their behavioral health issues. Additionally, team members who tested positive are in self-quarantine.”
Hackensack Meridian Health officials said the company is following protocols established by the CDC and the New Jersey Department of Health. “Experts from the network’s clinical teams and infectious disease teams are closely monitoring the situation,” reads the press statement. The steps include the following:
- Increased testing of all patients and team members.
- Comprehensive team member screening upon entry to the campus. If there is an issue, the employee is instructed to report to occupational health immediately and not come to work.
- Team members who test positive are required to self-quarantine for 10 days. If team members are symptomatic, they are prohibited from working and cannot return until they have a negative COVID test.
- The network conducts rigorous contact tracing so that if team members come in contact with a team member who is positive, they too must self-quarantine until they have a negative COVID test.
- Intensive cleaning of all facilities and treatment areas.
- Daily rounding by infectious disease experts to ensure all state and federal health protocols are being followed.
- Eliminating in-person visits to reduce the number of outside visitors to facilities. Visitors can connect through televisits.
According to the Montgomery Health Department, officials none of the positive staff members or patients are believed to be Montgomery residents, and contact with residents and Carrier staff in the municipality is infrequent. The facility draws staff and patients from a wide geographic area.
Because the Carrier cases do not include Montgomery residents, the cases there are not included among the COVID-19 statistics regularly reported by Montgomery Township’s health department. Those numbers have also been rising. In November, Montgomery logged 30 new COVID-19 cases as of Nov. 13. The township ended October with its highest number of COVID-19 positive tests in a single week, a total of 26 new cases for the week ending Oct. 30.