Right now is an understandably frightening and confusing time for the residents of New Jersey, especially those of us living in Bergen County. Our county has the highest number of COVID-19 cases - commonly referred to as coronavirus - and the number continues to grow every day. 

Being a densely populated county in close proximity to New York City, it was inevitable we would be hit harder than other areas. But our state was prepared for this eventuality and has many knowledgeable experts coordinating efforts to curb the spread of the virus as much as possible.

As your representatives in the General Assembly, we want to address this situation to help you understand what is going on and what we are doing on your behalf.

Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

The Assembly held a voting session this past Monday to pass a package of over two dozen bills - some of which we sponsored and all of which we voted in support of - to address the financial impact this crisis will have on both businesses and everyday citizens. 

Many of the bills were passed by the Senate Thursday. 

If signed into law by the Governor, these measures would provide compensation to certain employees who lose income as a result of the virus, allow companies and governments to conduct their business remotely, extend certain deadlines affected by these lockdowns and so on.

Essentially, these bills will provide some immediate and some long-term assistance to help residents deal with the fallout of these unusual circumstances.

The Governor has already signed several of them into law to prohibit evictions during this public health emergency, make receiving and providing telehealth services easier and expedite the licensure of medical professionals to help guarantee the health and safety of our residents.

But we understand that fear of the virus itself is also at the forefront of many people's minds. That's why we urge residents to try not to spread misinformation and to make sure you get your updates from reputable sources, such as the CDC and NJ.Gov websites.

Wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds, maintain a distance of at least six feet between you and other people and try to limit how often you go out in public. 

In the meantime, know the symptoms - which are usually a fever, cough and shortness of breath - though other symptoms have been reported as well. If you are feeling sick, don't go out. Call your doctor to seek guidance. 

The state is continuously improving our testing capabilities and as of yesterday, the first drive-through testing site has been opened right here in our county. 

Lots B and C at Bergen Community College Paramus Campus will be open from 8am- 4pm, 7 days a week for residents to go and have a sample collected for testing, all while remaining in their vehicles. The site will be able to collect up to 25,000 specimens each week.

Although no pre-registration or doctor approval is required, those who go there will need to bring proof of their residency and will be screened for applicable symptoms. If you do not have symptoms, you will be turned away. As of now, the goal is to prioritize symptomatic people, especially our healthcare professionals.

However, we want to make it absolutely clear that someone who is not exhibiting any symptoms can still have the virus and spread it to others before ever developing a cough or fever. 

That's why the state has mandated the closure of a number of high volume, non-essential businesses. And that's why we cannot stress enough just how important self-quarantining and social distancing are. 

Even if you're a young person who thinks you can't get sick, we are finding more and more that young adults actually can have serious complications. Even if you do not, you can easily pass the virus along to vulnerable friends and loved ones. 

We have to help our healthcare workers by limiting everyone's exposure to the virus. Although the state is working on expanding the number of hospital beds and workers, it's important we all do our part to stay healthy in order to keep the system from becoming overloaded.

Let's stick together by staying apart, Bergen County. We will get through this. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our office at 201-576-9199.