Amid the second surge of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate of hospitalization in the city has increased.
In an interview with the Bayonne Community News, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Alfredo Rabines explained how Bayonne Medical Center (BMC) is coping with the surge.
Rabines said that in the past week, the number of COVID-19 patients has gone from the low teens to almost 30.
A gradual increase
In comparison to the first surge of cases in March and April, Rabines said this time the increase has been more gradual.
“In volume, it has not been as exponential as it was in the first wave,” Rabines said.
According to Rabines, discharges are happening more quickly because many patients are being admitted at a moderate stage of the virus rather than at a severe stage.
“There were a lot more patients in the critical care units during the first surge of the pandemic,” Rabines said.
According to Rabines, there are fewer patients in the critical care units because there is more education about symptom awareness, so patients are coming in earlier than they did before.
Rabines said wearing masks and social distancing may have contributed to decreasing the amount of the viral load spreading. He said the severity of the virus depends on the level of exposure.
“With masks and other precautions in the community, perhaps there was less of the virus floating around for it to be as severe,” Rabines said.
Rabines said that the hospital is treating patients earlier in their course of the disease. Patients receive essential treatments such as Dexamethasone and Remdesivir in the Emergency Room (ER), rather then waiting for the patient to be admitted and treated on the inpatient side.
According to Rabines, treating patients sooner is contributing to quicker recoveries and discharges, in part due to a better understanding of which COVID-19 treatments are effective.
Rabines said the current surge can be attributed to Thanksgiving gatherings. BMC had correctly predicted that the volume of cases would increase the week after Thanksgiving.
Given many residents’ failure to abide by guidelines for Thanksgiving, a similar surge seems imminent following Christmas and New Year’s celebrations.
Rabines thinks the surge will continue and probably increase in the wake of these holidays. But he also thinks that once people realize how quickly the rate of transmission can increase and the number of cases climb, that public gatherings and other events during which the virus can spread will cease.
“I think they’ll understand that once social gatherings occur in larger numbers, the more likelihood their area of the community will see an increase in hospital admissions and critical cases,” Rabines said. “If people are aware of this, perhaps they will not gather in large groups and use even more safety precautions.”
A hospital prepared
Rabines said that the hospital is handling the surge of COVID-19 patients but is also continuing to safely operate for non-virus patients.
BMC has taken a number of steps to protect patients and staff, including a thermal temperature scanner at the entrance, symptom checks, COVID-19-free floors, the widespread distribution and use of personal protective equipment (PPE), prohibiting visitors to eliminate social gathering at the hospital, social distancing, cleaning rooms and surfaces with UV light, among other Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.
Before patients arrive at BMC for surgery, they are COVID-19 tested. Rabines said the hospital has a very strict protocol to monitor patients entering the hospital for COVID-19 as well as the patients in the hospital.
“That has been very, very effective in preventing anyone from getting COVID on hospital visits,” Rabines said.
The addition of a new robotics surgery system this month makes surgeries safer which works to decrease the length of stay at the hospital.
Despite the pandemic, patients are urged not to cancel surgeries, procedures, or other appointments. Rabines said this happened during the surge in March.
As a result, according to Rabines, treatments for non-virus patients were prolonged, prognoses worsened, and some patients even died.
Rabines assures residents that the hospital is safe from COVID-19, and non-virus patients can be treated safely without exposure.
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