NJ coronavirus patient criticizes response to COVID-19 outbreak

Coronavirus patient from NJ speaks out

New Jersey coronavirus patient James Cai is speaking out about how the illness has affected his life.

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HACKENSACK, N.J. — James Cai, one of New Jersey’s first coronavirus patients,spoke out on Wednesday, painting a picture of unpreparedness and incompetence across the government and hospitals.

Cai, who is hospitalized at Hackensack University Medical Center, told PIX11’s Henry Rosoff he misses his daughter.

“I cannot die,” Cai wrote in a text message Wednesday.

Cai, a 32-year-old physician’s assistant, said he went to the hospital’s emergency room on March 1 with symptoms that he thought would trigger coronavirus protocol. Instead, he said he was kept in the emergency room for four days, not properly isolated and often dealing with scared nurses.

Cai said he doesn’t have any additional risk factors or pre-existing conditions, but his health continued to deteriorate. He was put in isolation after five days, but did not receive treatments that he said have proven effective in China until March 9, Cai said.

An immigrant from China, Cai said he remains plugged into the medical community from his home country, though he did not recently travel there. He believes he contracted coronavirus through community spread while traveling in New York City.

Cai’s family, including his nearly 2-year-old daughter, self-quarantined without government intervention, he said. While they do not have symptoms, Cai claims the 14-day tracing of his movements still has not been completed.

Hackensack University Medical Center could not legally speak specifically about Cai’s case, except to say he is listed in stable condition.

However, Chief Physician Executive of Hackensack Meridian Health Dr. Daniel Varga insists the medical group has been preparing since the first case was confirmed in the United States weeks ago.

He said patients presenting any upper respiratory conditions are quickly triaged and isolated if necessary. Varga insisted there are daily quality control checks.

Varga said more testing is certainly needed to get a handle on the situation. He said Hackensack Meridian has developed its own test which will be operational within days.

Watch the PIX11 Evening News at 5:45 p.m. for Rosoff’s full report.

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