New year, same pandemic

Continue to follow precautions into the new year

Gathering in groups is still dangerous.
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Gathering in groups is still dangerous.

As 2020 comes to an end and the first COVID-19 vaccines are administered to frontline workers, it is not the time to let your guard down. If 2021 is going to be any better than this year, precautions need to stay in place to prevent a further surge of the virus.

In an interview with the Bayonne Community News, Chief Hospital Executive Dr. Vijay Singh explained how to stay safe and healthy into the new year. Singh offered insight into the vaccine as the first healthcare workers at the hospital were vaccinated on Dec. 22.

One word: don’t

According Singh, residents should avoid congregating on New Year’s Eve.

Those who must congregate should follow similar precautions Singh laid out for Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you’re planning on attending small gatherings, you should have already begun self-isolating for 14 days.

If an individual hasn’t been in quarantine since Dec. 17, there is a risk of virus transmission. Even if individuals show no symptoms, they could spread COVID-19.

There should be no more than two families at a get-together, with a limit of ten people.

Wear masks at all times, especially the elderly, children under 16, pregnant women, and those with pre-existing conditions. Singh said these subsets are prone to COVID-19 infections because of low immunity or compromised immune systems.

According to Singh, the most important precaution is to avoid traveling. People with a cough, fever, or any flu-like symptoms should avoid traveling, stay home, self-isolate, and get COVID-19 tested.

Post-holiday surges

An increase in cases has been correlated with holidays. Singh said that the current uptick in Bayonne can be linked to gatherings on Thanksgiving.

Singh had correctly predicted an increase in the number of cases and rate of hospitalizations in the wake of Thanksgiving. Prior to Thanksgiving, COVID-19 occupancy at Bayonne Medical Center was around 10 to 12 percent. Now, it’s anywhere from 22 to 25 percent, almost doubled.

Increases also occurred following Halloween and the 4th of July. Singh said the hospital is anticipating another uptick following Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Singh said that Bayonne Medical Center is not seeing patients as severely sick as they were during the first wave. Fewer patients require intubation on ventilators or critical care.

According to Singh, the best way to stay safe and healthy during New Year’s Eve is to avoid traveling, avoid congregating, wear masks, and avoid those most at-risk of contracting COVID-19.

The first doses

Employees at Bayonne Medical Center received their first doses of the Moderna vaccine on Dec. 22.

Singh said the vaccine will be distributed in the city in phases. Phase 1 is vaccinating frontline workers and at-risk residents, segmented into Phase 1A, 1B, and 1C. Phase 1A is hospital workers, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) workers, and long-term acute care workers and residents. Phase 1B includes office-based medical practices, police officers, firefighters, other frontline essential workers, and vulnerable members of the community. Phase 1C includes all other essential workers.

Vaccinating all the frontline workers at the hospital will take two to three weeks. Afterward, Bayonne Medical Center will become an open point of distribution. This means the hospital can begin working with the city and local Department of Health to become a center for vaccinating community members as part of the next phases of vaccine distribution.

The hospital will be one of many sites in Bayonne that will distribute the vaccine to the community. Singh estimates that community members will begin to receive the vaccine around the first week of February.

Currently, Bayonne Medical Center has only a limited number of doses. But Singh said that vaccine production is ramping up, and additional doses will be ready by the time Phase 1 ends.

Singh thinks that residents may be reluctant to receive the vaccine now, but after months of frontline workers being vaccinated, the broader community will be on board.

“I think by March we will start seeing a surge of the community to get vaccinated because after three months they will hear things are going well,” Singh said.

Life post-vaccination will not be any different from things as they are now. Singh said that mask wearing, social distancing, and other precautions to mitigate the spread of the virus will need to stay until at least mid 2022.

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.