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Students in graduation

Newark COVID-19 Outbreak: The SBP Connection Steps up to Provide Rapid-Response Testing for a City Under Siege

Nov. 9, 2020

Testing at one clinic reveals 33% positivity rate, providing important data that helps to identify a hot zone and inform recent citywide restrictions to stem the outbreak.  

A unique partnership between an urban doctor and St. Benedict’s Prep has been instrumental in tracking the alarming rise in COVID-19 cases in Newark, one of the state’s most vulnerable cities. Thanks to this partnership, the clinic run by Joseph Mosquera, M.D. ’72 was able to secure rapid molecular point-of-care tests  to detect COVID-19 – as well as the flu – within 13 minutes or less. The result: Dr. Mosquera’s clinic recently reported a positivity rate of 33%, significantly higher than New Jersey’s current 5.13% rate. This data was critical in identifying at risk communities in the city and helped to inform the recent citywide restrictions enacted to stem the outbreak.

  Joseph Mosquera, M.D. ’72 (left)

“Thanks to real-time testing and immediate reporting of cases, we have been a vital resource to identify this community in Newark as a hot zone,” Dr. Mosquera said. “That allowed the city to issue immediate restrictions, and hopefully, bring down the numbers in the coming weeks. Although cases are surging nationally, this area is especially hard hit and vulnerable, with its working class, urban population living in multigenerational apartments. This couldn’t have happened without the assistance of St. Benedict’s Prep.”

The patient population Dr. Mosquera treats mirrors the student body at St. Benedict’s Prep, a largely urban group living in high density apartments, often in multigenerational households. So, when Dr. Mosquera expressed his concerns in September about nationwide backlogs in supplies of COVID-19 testing kits and diagnostic equipment to Headmaster Fr. Edwin D. Leahy, O.S.B. ’63, the Benedictine monk immediately reached out to Donald Laurie ’60, CEO of Oyster International, LLC, for his assistance. Mr. Laurie, an investor in medical devices and technology, was able to help Dr. Mosquera acquire Abbott ID NOW™ COVID-19 rapid tests for use in his clinic.

 “Abbott’s ID NOW COVID-19 test has been a game-changer,” said Dr. Mosquera, noting that eight of the first nine patients who tested positive for COVID-19 were asymptomatic. In just two weeks, the positivity rate among his patients has risen from almost 20% to 33% –tracking the growing outbreak in the city. “The ID NOW delivers real-time results within 13 minutes, providing rapid results that are essential in helping to stop the spread of this virus. Getting on-the-spot results means I can tell patients who test positive for COVID-19 to self-isolate in order to not spread the disease to others. When a patient has to wait three, or even five, days for test results it’s almost impossible to contact trace and limit the spread of the virus.”

Dr. Mosquera has also been working closely with St. Benedict’s on the School’s response to COVID-19, consulting with Glenn Cassidy, Ed.D. ’90, Associate Headmaster for Community and Leadership, and ensuring that testing is available to the St. Benedict’s community. While students are taking classes virtually this fall, Cassidy and other St. Benedict’s staff members are available to speak with them about pandemic safety, including testing and quarantine. “This partnership is so important to our students and their families,” said Dr. Cassidy. “Dr. Mosquera’s clinic is an important resource for our community and our kids, many of whom live in high-risk households. Early detection through rapid-response testing is key to controlling the spread.”

For Mr. Laurie’s part, this collaboration embodies the deep commitment of St. Benedict’s graduates to serve others. “We have a saying: ‘Benedict’s Hates a Quitter,’” he explained. “We found a way to get it done. Getting these tests for Dr. Mosquera was critical, because an early diagnosis means you can get early care or treatment. That can be a lifesaver.”