COVID surges

Health officer Michele O'Reilly said the city has seen a "week over week increase"

Health Officer Michele O'Reilly gave the weekly COVID-19 video update on July 15.
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Health Officer Michele O'Reilly gave the weekly COVID-19 video update on July 15.

As of Aug. 12, Bayonne had 65 active COVID-19 cases, with one hospitalization at Bayonne Medical Center.

“That’s the current number of people who have tested positive,” Health Officer Michele O’Reilly told the Bayonne Community News. “They are still under isolation per CDC guidelines. They’re still experiencing symptoms.”

O’Reilly said that the number is re-evaluated weekly as patients complete their ten-day required isolation. Sometimes the isolation period carries over into the next week if symptoms persist.

The number of active cases has been increasing, up from 43 cases as of Aug. 5.

“We are seeing in the city of Bayonne, a week over week increase in cases,” O’Reilly said. “That’s anywhere from seven to eleven cases a day, and it fluctuates obviously. But we definitely are seeing an increase in cases.”

What’s going on?

According to O’Reilly, causes of the spike are the Delta variant and those who aren’t vaccinated.

“It’s predominately amongst our unvaccinated population, which is why we have been making such a strong push to get vaccinated,” O’Reilly said.

Part of unvaccinated population includes those under the age of 12, who are not yet eligible.

O’Reilly continued: “It’s threefold: it’s the people who are eligible to get vaccinated but have chosen not to become vaccinated, individuals under the age of 12 who don’t have the ability to be protected from a vaccine, and the Delta variant being a highly transmissible variant.”

The Delta variant 

The Delta variant has become the predominant strain across the state, O’Reilly said. She iterated the best weapon against the virus is the vaccine.

“Everybody’s health and immune system is different, but getting a vaccine will protect you and prevent you from serious illness, hospitalization, and death,” O’Reilly said.

For those who aren’t eligible to get vaccinated, O’Reilly said the best weapon against the virus would be to wear proper masks and follow CDC recommendations.

“I see sometimes people walking around with masks that I know are not new,” O’Reilly said. “They’re falling off their face, and they’re not able to provide protection. A properly fitting mask would definitely be the best protection for that 12 and under age range.”

Breakthrough cases

While the vaccines and masks can largely protect against the Delta variant, some vaccinated residents still get sick.

“Some of the cases we are experiencing are breakthrough cases, which means they were vaccinated and they did test positive,” O’Reilly said. “In those cases, we are seeing mild symptoms, which does show that the vaccines do work to a certain extent.”

For most breakthrough cases, symptoms are usually mild.

“What we are seeing on the ground here in Bayonne are mild symptoms,” O’Reilly said. “Then other individuals have underlying medical conditions, perhaps their symptoms have been exacerbated by that.”

Contact tracing woes

O’Reilly said that symptoms and severity can be monitored only if people report their symptoms, urging residents to cooperate with contact tracing.

“Nobody wants to answer any questions and sometimes the investigations can be lengthy,” O’Reilly said. “So when we do get cooperation from cases to answer these questions and identify direct contacts, it’s always helpful. But we are seeing a lot of people refusing the interview as well, which kind of halts any public health guidance that we can provide in order to stop the spread in our community.”

O’Reilly again encouraged unvaccinated residents to get the COVID vaccine.

Vaccination efforts

Over 66 percent of adults over the age of 18 in Bayonne are fully vaccinated as of Aug. 10, O’Reilly said. Over 76 percent of that group have received at least one dose.

According to O’Reilly, for a city of its size, Bayonne’s vaccination program is right on track. Recently, vaccination efforts are focused on reaching out to the unvaccinated population.

The city is in constant contact with the county to increase vaccination rates, O’Reilly said. She added that the superintendents of all the schools in the county met to discuss increasing vaccination rates for those 12 to 17 years old.

Part of the local vaccination effort is aimed at youth. O’Reilly said that the discussion to do so began internally within the city last month.

“There’s definitely been a push,” O’Reilly said. “I’ve done a video message encouraging vaccination for that age group prior to the beginning of the school year.”

Push to vaccinate youth

O’Reilly pointed to Bayonne High School’s Korpi Ice Rink vaccination site as a help in getting students vaccinated.

“Some of our summer camps and everything are occurring at the high school,” O’Reilly said. “I’ve heard from a lot of parents that they picked their kids up from summer camp then took them for their shot at the ice rink.”

O’Reilly said she is constant contact with Superintendent of Schools John Niesz and contact tracers and their supervisors to ensure everything is up to date, that interviews are being conducted, and information on vaccination options are being provided.

“In any way, shape, or form, we are getting the message out there,” O’Reilly said. “Robocalls, text messages, social media, and then just straight messaging to the community.”

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.