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Menendez Tours Lab Developing Coronavirus Test, Calls for Greater Federal Response to Combat Outbreak

NUTLEY, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee that sets national health policy, today toured the lab at Hackensack Meridian Health’s Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI) where leading infectious disease experts and researchers are developing a test for the COVID-19 coronavirus. The senator also called for a more robust federal response to the outbreak that includes greater funding to ensure New Jersey has the resources necessary to protect the public.

“The United States is capable of answering any challenge – so long as we have the necessary resources and strategy to succeed,” said Sen. Menendez. “I will continue to use every tool at my disposal to protect the public health of New Jersey families and all Americans. Together, we can prevent COVID-19 from turning into a full-blown public health crisis.” 

Scientists and researchers at Hackensack Meridian Health’s CDI have developed two sets of diagnostic tests for the coronavirus. One test is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the other test is recommended by a group of prominent scientists in Germany. Once the diagnostics are tested with a live sample of the virus, Hackensack Meridian hospitals will be able to test individuals experiencing symptoms on-site instead of sending samples to a CDC lab. This will allow patients to receive their test results more quickly. 

“Coronavirus is already in the US and we are preparing for cases in New Jersey,” said Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, the chief executive officer of Hackensack Meridian Health. “As the state’s largest comprehensive health network, we are positioning ourselves as the leader to mitigate its effects, and also develop innovations which will help in the days and weeks to come.” 

“Timely diagnostics are critical and we are veterans in this kind of event,” said David S. Perlin, Ph.D., the chief scientific officer and senior vice president of the CDI. “Our rapid diagnostic lab has previously been part of the 2003 SARS response, and the 2009 H1N1 response – and most recently the Candida auris outbreak. We’re doing our part to get Hackensack Meridian Health, and the state of New Jersey, ready for any viral spread.”

Menendez Tours Lab Developing Coronavirus Test, Calls for Greater Federal Response to Combat Outbreak

The Senator blasted the Trump Administration for requesting $1.25 billion from Congress to combat the coronavirus, which is far less than what leading experts recommend is needed to keep Americans safe. He called on Congress to pass Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s proposed $8.5 billion supplemental funding package. The funding will go towards bolstering the CDC’s efforts to combat the virus, as well as their capacity to work with local partners such as Hackensack Meridian Health. Funding will also go towards vaccine research and it will ensure the federal government will be able to reimburse states who are devoting resources such as personnel, lab equipment and medical supplies to fight the virus.

Hackensack Meridian Health’s CDI focuses on the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of cancer, infectious diseases and other life-threatening diseases. Dr. Perlin developed diagnostics for the 2003 SARS and 2009 H1N1 flu epidemics. 

Sen. Menendez has been leading efforts in Congress to ensure New Jersey has the resources to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

On Tuesday, Sen. Menendez and Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (N.J.-09) requested information from the Food and Drug Administration on the federal government’s plan to preserve the medical supply chain in light of the outbreak.

Earlier this month, Sens. Menendez and Cory Booker called on the Trump Administration to appoint a global health security expert to the White House’s National Security Council (NSC) to address and coordinate administration efforts in response to the coronavirus and other global health security threats. 

Sen. Menendez joined State Health Commissioner Judith M. Persichilli, chair of the New Jersey Coronavirus Task Force, to discuss the latest efforts in response to the global outbreak and provide the public an update on the current situation in New Jersey.

Sen. Menendez also urged the Trump Administration to fully fund pandemic preparedness and response efforts in light of the global Coronavirus outbreak and warned that its annual proposed funding cut could threaten the government’s ability to effectively combat the spread of the deadly virus. The Trump Administration has repeatedly proposed dramatic cuts to programs and offices that spearhead efforts to respond to this and other pandemics, including a 2020 budget proposal that cut critical pandemic response programs by nearly 20 percent.

Both senators successfully pressed the CDC to step up passenger screenings for coronavirus at Newark Liberty International Airport, the nation’s fifth busiest.

Sen. Menendez has co-hosted two Senate briefings in recent weeks on the global coronavirus outbreak by high-level Trump Administration officials, in which he continued to press for additional resources for New Jersey

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All Information was gathered from publicly available US Government releases. "§105. Subject matter of copyright: United States Government works Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States Government, but the United States Government is not precluded from receiving and holding copyrights transferred to it by assignment, bequest, or otherwise. ( Pub. L. 94–553, title I, §101, Oct. 19, 1976, 90 Stat. 2546 .)"
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