Virtual presentation helps residents get a better understanding of COVID-19

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ORANGE / EAST ORANGE, NJ — Well into the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, residents are understandably on edge with the fear of getting sick if they haven’t once before.

In a virtual presentation through Zoom held on Nov. 12, in a collaboration between the city of Orange and East Orange General Hospital, hospital staff discussed the current state of the pandemic and what the community can do to further protect itself from the threat of COVID-19.

“At the Essex County level, we’ve had about 29,000 cases and 2,000 Essex County members who are no longer with us,” EOGH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anuj Mehta said on Nov. 12. “About 420 cases are being diagnosed daily within the county. In Orange, we’ve had about 1,380 cases, but we’ve had about 100 people die within Orange from COVID-related causes and 36 new cases daily now. That is a significant number when you look at it from a general population point of view. The positivity rate is somewhere around 13 percent at the state level. At the county level, it is about 9.1 percent. It has an 8-percent growth on a week-by-week basis.”

According to Mehta, this rapid growth can be dire.

“This means that the transmission rate for each patient who is infected, they are infecting about 1.3 people,” Mehta revealed. “If you want to control the pandemic, that number must come below one, but we are not there. We are getting worse. We were 1.2 in October and now we are at 1.3, and this has really spiked in the last few days. There are a couple of contributing causes, but they’re just hypothetical now.”

Within the community, the disease affects some more than others.

“When you look at the racial distribution within the country, 16 percent of the infected are black, 27 percent are Hispanic and about 48 percent are Caucasian,” Mehta said. “However, when you look at the death rate, it is disproportionately higher within the black and Hispanic community. That’s predominantly the demographic of the East Orange, Orange and the greater Newark areas, in general.”

Moving forward, vaccine mistrust will be a factor, according to Mehta. The chances of residents seeking the vaccine differ greatly among communities.

“If you are white, there was a 48-percent chance that you would go ahead and get the vaccine, but if you’re black, it would be a 24-percent chance that you would go and get the vaccine,” Mehta said. “What it does show is that there’s a greater risk of death within the black community but there’s also a greater mistrust of the vaccine, both development and administration, compared to their Caucasian counterparts.”

Mehta urged residents to seek medical attention if they experience any COVID symptoms.

“It doesn’t matter what your symptomatology is, if you need to be checked out, you need to come to the hospital,” Mehta said. “You may have an atypical presentation of COVID. You cannot avoid it. Your best bet is to get treated.”

To help members of the community prepare to better protect themselves and others, there was discussion of what occurs at the hospital.

“The first thing that I want everyone to know is that we have adequate supplies of PPE for all of our staff and any visitors who would come there,” Chief Operating Officer and Chief Nursing Officer Mary Anne Healy-Rodriguez said on Nov. 12. “We’ve really been hoarding since May since we’ve got out of the state we were in. E.O. General Hospital has gone to great lengths with our parent company to ensure that we have adequate masks, gowns, gloves and face shields for all of our staff.

“When you come to our hospital, if you don’t have a mask, we will provide you with one when you come into the front door,” she continued. “You will have your temperature taken and you will receive screening questions. If anyone, either a worker or a visitor, has any of those symptoms, for example, a fever above 100 degrees, you would not be able to enter the hospital. You’ll also sanitize your hands at the front door and then you’ll be able to move forward to your destination. All of our services are open right now.

“COVID patients aren’t allowed to have visitors, for your safety and that of the staff. But we are set up where we can help families keep in touch with their loved ones,” she added.

After viewing the presentation, some viewers thought the information presented was helpful.

“As councilwoman at large and liaison for the Health Department, it is through partnering with various agencies such as East Orange General that allows us to constantly inform our citizens of health-related issues,” Councilwoman Adrienne Wooten said on Nov. 16. “This was a very informative meeting.”