Staying safe amid COVID-19 this holiday season

The key is getting vaccinated, boosted, and maintaining common sense

As COVID-19 cases surge again, with the Omicron variant on the rise, traveling and indoor gatherings for the holidays continue unabated. While the Delta variant is still the most prominent in Bayonne, residents are still at an increased risk of contracting the virus due to the holidays.

In an interview with the Bayonne Community News, Health Officer Michele O’Reilly described how to stay safe this holiday season. O’Reilly suggested to take celebrations outside if possible, weather permitting.

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“If we do get some reasonable weather, take activities outside when possible,” she said. “It’s important to keep it to keep it to close family members. Make the holidays about getting back together with your family that you maybe have not been able to be with.”

O’Reilly also encouraged residents and members of the public to keep indoor gatherings limited to close family.

“Keep it close, limit it to immediate family members, and encourage family members who are not vaccinated to get vaccinated and to get boosted,” she said. “It’s important to keep in mind the vulnerable members of your family: the young under the age of five, the elderly, the immunocompromised. Keep those populations in mind when you are gathering. For example, if you are sick, you’ll need to avoid that holiday gathering. Just keep in mind there are more vulnerable populations.”

Get vaccinated for protection

According to O’Reilly, the best way to protect yourself and your family is to get vaccinated, according to O’Reilly. It especially protects those who are immunocompromised who you may be visiting during the holidays, such as elderly relatives like grandma and grandpa.

“The efficacy of the vaccine may not reach what the studies have shown due to their immunocompromised state,” she said. “That’s why it’s important for anybody who is immunocompromised to get that booster dose rather than a booster so that it can increase the efficacy a little more.”

Even those who are vaccinated can still get sick, known as breakthrough cases. However, the vaccine works to prevent serious illness, hospitalization, and even death in those who have received it, reducing symptoms and their severity, according to O’Reilly.

“We are seeing breakthrough cases as well,” she said. “It’s important to be mindful of staying home when you’re sick. The primary mode of transmission is still through respiratory droplets. So if you’re sick and you’re coughing, it doesn’t make for a good indoor gathering… Increased vaccination rates have definitely made it a little more comfortable to gather with loved ones this holiday season, but still be mindful and use common sense.”

It’s important to remember to use common sense measures to mitigate the spread of the virus, such as keeping good hygiene, washing hands, not touching your face, social distancing, and wearing a mask in crowded spaces.

“We’ve been in this public health fight for almost twenty months now,” she said. “Everybody knows when to wear a mask, when to wash your hands, when to stay home when you’re sick, and to avoid large gatherings, especially when the vaccination status of the other people in attendance are unknown.”

Rise and fall with the holidays

Even if residents are diligent about these things, cases were expected to increase and continue to do so due to traveling and indoor gatherings for the holidays.

“Increased indoor gatherings due to Thanksgiving and or traveling for the holiday to visit family, perhaps in other states, are reasons why we still have increasing cases,” she said. “It has been expected. It’s like a wax and wane. As the holidays come, we’ll see an increase in cases. As the holidays go, we’ll see a decrease. I expect to see things taper off once the holidays are over.”

Despite the recent increase, O’Reilly said the city is still in pretty good shape. Cases continue to rise but this surge is not what it could have been thanks to the vaccine, she said, far from the hundreds of cases per day seen at the height of the pandemic in 2020.

“We never want to be back at that place and I think due to increased vaccinations and boosters, we are not seeing that. We are just continuing to push the message to get vaccinated and get boosted, so hopefully we don’t see those numbers increase like the way we did twenty months ago.”

And hospitalizations remain low. While visits to the Emergency Department at Bayonne Medical Center have increased, in-patient admissions for the virus are small in number as a testament to the vaccine.

The Moderna vaccines, including first, second, third, and booster doses are available at the Korpi Ice Rink behind Bayonne High School at 669 Avenue A on Mondays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Pfizer vaccines, including first, second, third, and booster doses are available at the ice rink on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“I think we are fairing well,” O’Reilly said. “In true Bayonne fashion, we hold each other responsible to do the right thing. We are doing a great job and we can always do better. Be nice. With all that’s going on, we don’t know the struggles that people have been through the past 20 months. People could have lost their jobs, family members, friends, who knows. It’s an important reminder to be kind throughout this holiday season.

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. 

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