North Hudson first responders battle COVID-19

EMTs, firefighters, and law enforcement officers have gotten sick on the job

West New York first responders made a PSA with Mayor Rodriguez advising residents to stay home.
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West New York first responders made a PSA with Mayor Rodriguez advising residents to stay home.

As the COVID-19 pandemic intensifies in Hudson County, those working the front lines have frequently been exposed to the virus.

Nearly 2,200 Hudson County residents, emergency workers, and first responders were seen in the first two weeks of Hudson Regional Hospital’s drive-through testing site in Secaucus.

“The county is very pleased with how well the partnership has been able to respond to the needs of the community during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Deputy County Executive David Drumeler on April 3. “We tested 289 people yesterday and continue to increase capacity every day.”

According to Hudson Regional Hospital, 58 percent of individuals were positive. The collaboration between the hospital, Hudson County and Secaucus is seeing a higher-than-state-average positive rate due to the program’s prescreening requirement.

It is not clear how many of the 2,200 residents tested were emergency workers and first responders. However, the evidence extends beyond Secaucus.

In West New York, the town reported that three members of the Police Department have tested positive for COVID-19 as of March 29. It is not clear if that number has grown since then.

“Our administration is in contact with them and with our Public Health Official and is ensuring they have the resources they need through these trying times,” West New York Mayor Gabriel Rodriguez said on March 29. “This is an unfortunate reality we have to deal with, throughout the state there have been over 700 positive diagnosis of COVID-19 in emergency personnel. As more testing becomes available in our area and the greater New Jersey, we will unfortunately see more positive cases.”

To encourage residents to continue following Gov. Murphy’s stay-at-home order, Rodriguez teamed up with emergency first responders to make a public service announcement video advising people to stay at home for the sake of the healthcare workers and front-line responders who can’t stay home.

Throughout Hudson County, other municipalities have reported a number of police officers have contracted COVID-19.

In Jersey City, 35 police officers and 13 firefighters are among those who tested positive at the drive-thru facility as of April 1.

Hudson County officer dies

Corrections officer have also been impacted by COVID-19.

A Hudson County Correctional officer, Bernard Waddell, Sr. died from COVID-19, according to the New Jersey State Policeman’s Benevolent Association (NJ PBA).

“His death is a grim reminder of the risks that our members face every day serving the public in the face of this pandemic,” according to a statement by the NJ PBA. “We ask that you keep Officer Waddell’s family and colleagues in your prayers at this difficult time as we mourn his loss.”

Gov. Murphy also offered his condolences at the loss of Waddell.

“We’re heartbroken by the loss of veteran Hudson County Corrections Officer Bernard Waddell,” he said. “He served for 28 years and was a front-line hero.”

Two nurses working at Hudson County Correctional Center died from COVID-19.

Daisy Doronila served as a nurse at the center for more than 20 years. She was a single mom who lived in Nutley.

“She gave tirelessly to her family and her community,” Murphy said. “Our deepest condolences to her family.”

It was reported that the second nurse who passed away was Edwin Montanano.

As first responders continue to operate on the front lines, it is expected that cases among these workers will continue to climb.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.