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Our first responders have of course been on the front lines of the Covid-19 pandemic and in the middle of the second wave with cases going up, Monmouth County Freeholders and the OEM are increasing the amount of testing and hours available to first responders with the Sheriff's Office Mobile Unit.

The idea for an increase to first responder only testing was the brainchild of Middletown Firefighter John Drucker who reached out to Monmouth County Freeholder Director Tom Arnone about being able to provide testing for emergency services.

With the idea getting overwhelming approval on the Freeholder Board and by Sheriff Shaun Golden, who oversees the Monmouth County Office of Emergency Management, the focus became on how and where to implement the testing.

"What we did is laid out a map, looked at the large regions (of Monmouth County) and we put them as our point of contact and our testing sites and right now we're happy to say Middletown, where John Drucker is a fireman, Manalapan, Wall and Ocean will be those testing sites," Arnone said at a press conference Wednesday.

There will be 100 tests offered per day at these sites two days and up to four days a week, from 9:00 am until 1:00 pm, starting on December 8 and running through the end of the month but that could be extended as warranted.

Here is the current Mobile Testing Schedule:

Dec. 8         Middletown Fire Department, 336 State Highway 35, Middletown

Dec. 10       Wall Township-Camp Evans, 800 Monmouth Road, Wall

Dec. 15       Manalapan Township Recreation Area, 120 County Route 522, Manalapan

Dec. 17       Ocean Probation, 2407 State Rt. 66 (Sea View Square Mall), Ocean Township, NJ

Dec. 22       Middletown Fire Department, 336 State Highway 35, Middletown

Dec. 24       l Township-Camp Evans, 800 Monmouth Road, Wall

Dec. 29       Manalapan Township Recreation Area, 120 County Route 522, Manalapan

Dec. 31       Ocean Probation, 2407 State Rt. 66 (Sea View Square Mall), Ocean Township, NJ

This is just the latest initiative rolled out during the pandemic by the Monmouth County Freeholders that Director Arnone feels will help make the community safer and protected now and in the long run.

"All these things are initiatives and ways to help our providers that are helping us," Arnone said. "So if we're helping them, they're helping their families, we're stopping a little bit of that spread because they're out in contact...all these things are going to play into Monmouth County being a very safe and healthy environment to be in."

The testing sites for first responders will literally be rolled out with help from the Monmouth County Sheriff's Office Mobile Command Unit.

Sheriff Shaun Golden is stressing the importance of having testing immediately available to first responders especially with more testing being done across the board during this second wave.

"As we see the lines grow for testing centers, this is a way to prioritize our first responders as they are just that. Our healthcare providers and first responders are on the front lines of Covid, they really do not need to be waiting in line to be sure or not sure if they have Covid-19 and are awaiting a test," Golden said at the press conference. "So this is a way for them to not wait in line and have a test directly and get a result for themselves so they can carry on with their duties."

When the Covid-19 vaccine is available, it'll be just as important that healthcare providers and first responders are first in line to receive it.

"When the vaccine is in place, and I know our health department and our emergency management team are working diligently to make sure that vaccinations are delivered accordingly here in the county, they will be delivered to healthcare providers and first responders and appropriately so as the primary provider for our residents safety here in the county," Golden said.

As the Pfizer vaccine is closer to approval and Moderna expected to follow in phase three trials, it'll then be able to get distributed and when it's available in New Jersey, you'll see an almost immediate setup at the Jersey Shore.

"Monmouth County submitted all of the required paperwork and information to become the first health department to be able to administer the vaccine," Freeholder Deputy Director Sue Kiley said at the press conference.

When the FDA authorizes the vaccines, they'll be delivered to hospitals and then to health departments, Freeholder Kiley explains, and to healthcare workers first and front line employees.

"The next wave will be residents who are 65 and older that are at high risk and there's a lot of talk about focusing specially on long term care facilities. Vaccines will be offered to the public probably not until 2021 because these waves will take place first," Kiley said. "The Monmouth County Health Department has officially been listed as a vaccine provider and we'll work with our office of emergency management where those vaccines will be administered."

You can follow Vin Ebenau on Twitter and Instagram and email news tips to vin.ebenau@townsquaremedia.com.

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