Trinitas Prepares for Potential Coronavirus

Proximity to Newark Liberty Airport prompts additional precautions

A Message from the President: COVID-19 Update

March 18, 2020

Gary S. Horan, FACHE, President & Chief Executive Officer

I’m writing to update you on activities at Trinitas designed to halt the spread and treat possible active cases of COVID-19.

I also want to thank our staff for their calmness and professionalism during this trying time. This is a new normal that has been thrust upon everyone. Here at Trinitas we are doing everything possible to protect our patients, staff and our community. This includes following all CDC guidelines and our own policies that were put into place just for this eventuality.

Last night we received confirmation that two of our patients tested positive for COVID-19. We are taking all precautions with these patients, including placing them in isolation and identifying staff who may have had contact with them before they were identified as possible COVID patients.

Also, one of our contracted employees tested positive after possible exposure in Bergen County. The good news is the employee self-quarantined after experiencing minor symptoms, and after a week of having no symptoms, was able to return to work today. Nonetheless all protocols are being enforced, and we are identifying and contacting all patients and staff who may have been exposed, as per CDC guidelines.

For staff and the general public, testing will be done only if there are severe symptoms, but at the moment we are not offering testing for those who are well or mildly ill. The fear is that the “worried well” can quickly overwhelm our resources. This practice is being followed elsewhere.

As we have for the last few weeks, all Senior Management and Department Directors are meeting daily to enact policies and processes to protect our patients and staff. We are closely following CDC and NJ Department of Health recommendations for mitigating and containing the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

As you know from my last communication earlier this week, we decided to halt visiting by the general public, volunteers, outside students and vendors.

Today we took additional steps as follows:

  • Elective Surgeries – as recommended by the American College of Surgeons, elective surgeries that require an overnight stay are being postponed. We will continue to perform surgery on inpatients and ambulatory patients. Drs. Leon Pirak and Rodolfo Colaco will review all cases and make exceptions where warranted. The Surgery Clinic will continue to provide post surgical care. Breast biopsies will continue to be provided.
  • Endoscopy – Elective cases will be postponed. We will continue to provide endoscopies for inpatients.
  • Interventional Radiology – Elective cases will be postponed. Emergency and inpatient cases will continue.
  • Pulmonary Function Testing – Elective cases will be postponed. Emergency and inpatient cases will continue.
  • Cardiac Catheterizations – All cases will continue to be served.

These restrictions will be evaluated daily.

Please also take note of the following:

  • A second hand sanitizer will be placed in each of the major entry points.
  • The Gift Shop in the Williamson Street Campus lobby is closed until further notice.
  • Daily Mass – the chapel will no longer be open but Mass can be viewed on the internal television system.
  • Patient Television – we will waive the rental fees until further notice.

Again, thanks to everyone for their cooperation and understanding during this challenging period.

Read the March 16th Update

As a community hospital in close proximity to major transportation hubs like Newark Liberty Airport, Trinitas Regional Medical Center physicians and staff must remain in a state of continual readiness for any public health emergency including the potential of a patient with the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19.

Beginning in mid-January when the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published information on the early identification of a novel Coronavirus, Trinitas Infection Prevention and Control staff, along with a physician epidemiologist, began to share information and recommended screening guidelines with Emergency Department physicians and staff.

"Trinitas takes the threats posed by this new virus very seriously and we are fully prepared to meet the challenges they present," says Gary S. Horan, FACHE, Trinitas President and Chief Executive Officer. "As our main hospital facility is just three miles from one of the busiest airports in the United States, we are right at the gateway to hundreds of thousands of international travelers who are passing through or looking to enter our region."

"Using the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as our content expert, our approach has included education of frontline staff to recognize the risk factors for COVID-19; screening at our patient entrance points for out-of-country travel, especially to those countries identified as high risk; appropriate isolation of patients with flu-like symptoms; ongoing actions necessary to reduce the risk of the spread of infection to other patients, our staff and our community; and continual monitoring of the situation," explains William Farrer, MD, Epidemiologist and Chair of the Infections Prevention and Control Committee at Trinitas.

Under the guidance of Infection Prevention and Emergency Management leaders, staff members continually train and participate in exercises designed to assure safe responses to emerging illnesses and infections as well as to manage an influx of patients and individuals who are concerned they may have been exposed. This approach includes aligning with City of Elizabeth and Union County health agencies, meetings with community members and maintaining close contact with local emergency response personnel, particularly those at the airport.

"Trinitas stands ready to care for our community with well-trained doctors and staff, and have taken precautions, such as restricting visitors who exhibit symptoms or have traveled to areas of high risk," says Mary McTigue, RN, Vice President/Patient Care Services & Chief Nursing Officer at Trinitas. These precautions have been in place since the start of the regular flu season, but have now expanded to include requiring employees who have traveled to high risk areas to self-quarantine at home for 14 days.

"The most important message is for the general public to take simple precautions. Hand-washing is still the single most important action to prevent the spread of any infection. Use good cough etiquette – cough into a tissue or your elbow, and then wash your hands for 20 seconds," McTigue says. If you know someone who has traveled to a high risk country, encourage them to speak with their health provider and to self-monitor for fever and flu-like symptoms. Finally, get information from experts about COVID-19 that can be found through the CDC COVID-19 website at and the New Jersey Department of Health's 24 hour Public Hotline at 1-800-222-1222.

Frequently Asked Questions

(Furnished by the New Jersey Hospital Association)

What are coronaviruses?

A coronavirus is a type of common virus that can infect your respiratory tract. They can spread much like cold viruses. Almost everyone gets a coronavirus infection at least once in their life, most likely as a young child. They tend to circulate in the fall and winter.

What is the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Sometimes a novel (meaning "new") type of coronavirus emerges and begins infecting humans. The type of coronavirus that has recently emerged in Wuhan, China is a new type of coronavirus and is infecting people for the first time, which means people do not have any immunity to it. It is causing an outbreak of respiratory illness.

What is the difference between 2019-nCoV and COVID-19?

These are two different names for the same virus. 2019-nCoV was the original name and this was changed by the World Health Organization on February 12, 2020 to COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019).


What are the signs and symptoms of 2019-nCoV (COVID-19)?

There is limited information at this time on the full range of clinical illness associated with this virus. However, it is causing symptoms consistent with a respiratory illness such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Symptoms have varied from mild to severe. CDC believes at this time that symptoms of 2019 nCoV may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure.

How is 2019-nCoV (COVID-19)? treated?

There is no specific treatment for this virus other than supportive care as needed.

Is there a vaccine?

There is currently no vaccine for the 2019 novel coronavirus.

How is 2019-nCoV (COVID-19) spread?

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person to person.

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. It is possible that you can also become infected by touching something which has been contaminated by the virus and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Can someone spread the virus without being sick?

People are thought to be most contagious when they are the most symptomatic (the sickest). Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

How easily does the virus spread?

The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainable in the community in some affected geographic areas. Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.

Will warm weather stop the outbreak of COVID-19?

It is not yet known whether weather and temperature impact the spread of COVID-19. Some other viruses, like the common cold and flu, spread more during cold weather months but that does not mean it is impossible to become sick with these viruses during other months. At this time, it is not known whether the spread of COVID-19 will decrease when weather becomes warmer. There is much more to learn about the transmissibility, severity, and other features associated with COVID-19 and investigations are ongoing.


Should I be concerned about pets or other animals and COVID-19?

To date, CDC has not received any reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19. At this time, there is no evidence that companion animals including pets can be infected with or spread COVID-19. However, since animals can spread other disease to people, it's always a good idea to wash your hands after being around animals.

Should I avoid contact with pets or other animals if I am sick with COVID-19?

You should restrict contact with pets and other animals while you are sick with COVID-19, just like you would around other people. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick. If you are sick with COVID-19, avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with pets and wear a facemask.

What about animals or animal products imported from China?

CDC does not have any evidence to suggest that animals or animal products imported from China pose a risk for spreading 2019-nCoV in the United States. This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available. The CDC, the US Department of Agriculture and the US Fish and Wildlife Service play distinct but complementary roles in regulating the importation of live animals and animal products into the United States. CDC regulates animals and animal products that pose a threat to human health, USDA regulates animals and animal products that pose a threat to agriculture, and Fish and Wildlife regulates importation of endangered species and wildlife that can harm the health and welfare of humans, the interests of agriculture horticulture, or forestry, and the welfare and survival of wildlife resources.


Are pregnant women more susceptible to infections, or at increased risk for severe illness, morbidity, or mortality with COVID-19, compared with the general public?

CDC does not have information from published scientific reports about susceptibility of pregnant women to COVID-19. Pregnant women experience physical changes which might make them more susceptible to viral respiratory infections, including COVID-19. Pregnant women also might be at risk for severe illness, morbidity, or mortality compared to the general population as observed in cases of other related coronavirus infections [including severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV)] and other viral respiratory infections, such as influenza, during pregnancy.

Are pregnant women with COVID-19 at increased risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes?

CDC does not have information on adverse pregnancy outcomes in pregnant women with COVID-19. Pregnancy loss, including miscarriage and stillbirth, has been observed in cases of infection with other related coronaviruses [SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV] during pregnancy. High fevers during the first trimester of pregnancy can increase the risk of certain birth defects.

Are infants born to mothers with COVID-19 during pregnancy at increased risk for adverse outcomes?

Based on limited case reports, adverse infant outcomes (such as pre-term birth) have been reported among infants born to mothers positive for COVID-19 during pregnancy. However, it is not clear that these outcomes were related to maternal infection, and at this time the risk of adverse infant outcomes is not known. Given the limited data available related to COVID-19 during pregnancy, knowledge of adverse outcomes from other respiratory viral infections may provide some information. For example, other respiratory viral infections during pregnancy, such as influenza, have been associated with adverse neonatal outcomes, including low birth weight and preterm birth. Additionally, having a cold or influenza with high fever early in pregnancy may increase the risk of certain birth defects. Infants have been born preterm and/or small for gestational age to mothers with other coronavirus infections. SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, during pregnancy.

Is there a risk that COVID-19 in a pregnant woman or neonate could have long-term effects on infant health and development that may require clinical support beyond infancy?

At this time, there is no information on long-term health effects on infants either with COVID-19, or those exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 in utero. In general, prematurity and low birth weight are associated with adverse long-term health effects.

Is maternal illness with COVID-19 during lactation associated with potential risk to a breastfeeding infant?

Human-to-human transmission by close contact with a person with confirmed COVID-19 has been reported and is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when a person with infection coughs or sneezes. To date, no evidence of virus has been found in the breast milk of women with COVID-19. No information is available on the transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 through breast milk (i.e., whether infectious virus is present in the breast milk of an infected woman). In limited reports of lactating women with COVID-19, the virus has not been detected in breast milk; however, antibodies against the virus were detected in at least one sample.


What is a pandemic?

A pandemic is a widespread infectious disease, that sickens a large number of people worldwide.

What are some things we should be doing now to prepare for COVID-19 becoming a pandemic?

Some things we can be doing before a pandemic begins can include:

  • Stocking up on a two-week supply of food and water
  • Periodically check your regular prescription drugs to ensure a continuous supply in your home
  • Have non-prescription drugs and other health supplies on hand including pain relievers/fever reducing medications, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins, tissues.
  • Stock up on household supplies such as toilet paper, hand soap, paper towels, garbage bags, cleaning supplies, etc.
  • Get copies and maintain electronic versions of health records from doctors, hospitals pharmacies and other sources and store them for personal reference.
  • Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick, or what would be needed for them in your home.
  • Have pet foods and supplies.
  • Stock up on baby care items
  • Plan for extended school and day care closures
  • Talk to your employer about telecommuting opportunities in the event that movement of people is restricted
  • Plan for a sick room in the home. Designate one room that would work best, usually a bedroom with its own bathroom that no one else will use. If someone in the home becomes ill, keep them in the sick room away from others.


I am planning to travel to an affected area, what should I do to protect myself?

The CDC has posted travel information specific to the novel coronavirus in various areas of the world. You can see it at The CDC recommends avoiding non-essential travel to some destinations based on the level of ongoing transmission of the virus.

Chinese officials have closed transport within and out of Wuhan, and other cities in Hubei Province including buses, subways, trains, and the airport.

Remain alert if traveling to affected areas by practicing the precautions below.

Travelers to affected areas should:

  • Avoid contact with sick people
  • Avoid animals (alive or dead), animal markets, and products that came from animals such as uncooked meat
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Older travelers and those with underlying health issues may be at risk for more severe disease and should discuss travel to affected areas with their healthcare provider.

If you traveled to China in the last 14 days and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, you should:

  • Seek medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor's office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with others.
  • Not travel while sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use and alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

If someone has returned from China, but has no symptoms, can they be swabbed to be sure that they do not have the virus?

As of now, there are no tests that can make sure individuals who are not sick don't have the virus.

I am planning to travel soon. Should I wear a mask on the plane?

The CDC has not made any recommendations that travelers need to wear masks in an effort to prevent exposure to the 2019 novel coronavirus.