NJ officials on coronavirus: ‘This is not a time to panic. It’s a time to prepare.’

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New Jersey’s leaders are trying to quell the public’s fear over coronavirus, telling them that it is “not a time to panic. It’s a time to prepare.”

Middlesex County Freehold Ronald Rios held a news conference on Tuesday to deliver that message to his community. There are no confirmed cases of the illness in the county or statewide. But Rios wanted to assure the public that hospitals in the county would be ready.

Todd Way is the president of Hackensack Meridian Health Central Region. He leads Bayshore Medical Center in Holmdel - a hospital with a suspected Coronavirus case over the weekend. The patient tested negative for the virus in the case. But Way says that the hospital is ready to protect anyone who could potentially be exposed during an actual coronavirus case.

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“We would monitor you from home. We would contact you if we knew…a potential patient may have tested positive. We would contact you to see if you were asymptomatic and we would treat you based on your symptoms. But we would not keep you in quarantine,” Way says.

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New Jersey has set up a hotline for the public who have questions about the outbreak. Since the hotline went live, the call center has received over 1,000 calls, with as many as 100 calls a day. The most common questions seem to be about the symptoms of coronavirus and where people should go to get tested.

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"I believe we are seeing more calls now because of the cases that are actually popping up in pockets of the New York area and across the country. So, I believe people are getting a little bit more scared because of that,” says Bruce Ruck, Pharm. D., Managing Director of the New Jersey Poison Control Center at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

Staff at the center expect the high call volume to continue into the near future. Those fielding the calls at the center are working extra hours to take all the calls.

Rutgers University officials released a statement on Tuesday suspending study abroad programs worldwide for the rest of the current semester also restricting international spring break programs. Other colleges around the state have also suspended their study aboard programs.

Gov. Phil Murphy holds press conference on coronavirus preparedness.

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