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New Jersey Health Officials Concerned About Coronavirus Community Spread As 8 New Cases Announced

BLACKWOOD, N.J. (CBS) -- A new influx of cases in New Jersey has officials concerned about community spread. Concerns over the spread of COVID-19 are to the point even some health care providers are meeting remotely to discuss it.

A panel of public health experts was supposed to address a summit with several hundred first responders at Camden County College on Wednesday. Instead, they spoke to a camera and took questions online.

"We did want everyone together but we realized right now, with the ongoing transmission in different areas, we did not want to take that risk, especially with our health care providers, our EMS and our first responders," Camden County Assistant Public Health Coordinator Caryelle Lasher said.

It's called social distancing, a public health intervention whereby people should not gather together in the midst of an outbreak if they can't maintain at least six feet of distance from one another.

"Six feet is about how far the droplets go for a good cough and sneeze," Lasher said. "And we do encourage that even at home you do social distancing with your family members, and just stay out of the community if you're not feeling well."

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There's been a steady stream of new presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in New Jersey daily. Eight new cases were announced Wednesday, bringing the statewide total to 23. There's still just three in South Jersey.

Experts say it's hard to know if the rate of transmission will remain relatively low, so they are preparing health systems for a possible surge of sick patients.

"Our mission is to protect the health of the residents of New Jersey by stopping or controlling the spread," New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said.

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Camden County Public Safety Director Rob Blaker says police, fire and EMT professionals are prepared.

"They have guidelines, they have protocols that are provided by the Department of Health for any type of infectious disease," Blaker said. "So they are going to take those precautions every day."

Public safety officials that if you believe you may have COVID-19 symptoms, don't call 911, call your local physician. Only call 911 if you have severe difficulty breathing.

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