East Orange virtual Town Hall addresses COVID-19 concerns

Top row, from left, are a sign language interpreter, East Orange Mayor Ted Green and East Orange General Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anuj Mehta; and bottom row, from left, East Orange Health Officer Victor Kuteyi and East Orange Health and Human Services Director Monique Griffith during the virtual Town Hall meeting on Dec. 16.

EAST ORANGE, NJ — Back and recovered from COVID-19, East Orange Mayor Ted Green hosted yet another weekly COVID-19 virtual Town Hall meeting on Dec. 16 to discuss the second wave of COVID-19, the disease that is once again crippling the tristate area.

“We’re now having two conversations,” Green said. “We’re talking about COVID and we’re talking about the vaccine and talking about people who are skeptical of what’s going on with the vaccine. We still have to wear those masks, we still have to practice social distancing, we still have to make sure we wash our hands frequently and we still have to make sure that we are not in the crowds. When you go in stores and apartment buildings, everyone must make sure that they are still following all the executive orders and protocols that are in place.

“We cannot let our guards down,” he continued. “We are still in this tunnel, and we have a long way to go. We know people are getting tested, and we know people are beginning to understand the true meaning of what it means to have the disease. I’m one of them. Most importantly, you have to make sure to stay away from crowds and people.”

East Orange Health and Human Services Director Monique Griffith addressed the area’s COVID-19 numbers and testing.

“As of today, we’ve confirmed a total of 3,467 positive COVID cases within East Orange. We’ve also identified 244 COVID-related deaths,” she said on Dec. 16. With 753 positive cases, the fifth ward has seen more cases than East Orange’s other wards.

As of Dec. 22, according to numbers from the county, East Orange has experienced 3,600 cases and 245 deaths.

A recent COVID-19 testing event took place Dec. 19 at Rowley Park Field House.

“Testing is still occurring,” Griffith said. “We actually have conducted testing in senior buildings, and most have been very flexible and have partnered with us to allow us to come in. If you are a senior within the city, whether you live dependently or in one of our senior buildings, if we have not been to your senior building and you have questions, please don’t hesitate to call the Health Department at 973-266-5480.”

Comparing last spring to now, East Orange General Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anuj Mehta agreed with Green about people becoming more relaxed in their efforts to protect themselves from this life-threatening disease.

“I think people are, in general, tired,” he said. “I don’t blame them, but when you think back to April and May, there was a distinctive sense of fear, and people were following the rules, such as wearing masks, trying to stay away from each other, trying to not congregate and refrain from hanging around in parks. This time around, people are more open to socialization. We are, currently, in the midst of the Thanksgiving surge. So, around that time, about 6 million took air travel to meet with other family members.

“Just imagine,” he continued. “If one person on that flight was probably sick, there were 200 to 300 people, on the same flight, who got sick as well or carried the virus with them. Where we are right now, we are seeing a minor increase in the number of cases. On the positive side, we have a better understanding of the disease, treatment and management options. Overall, we are much more equipped in treating it right now than we were the first time around. But make no mistake, this is still a deadly disease.”

East Orange Health Officer Victor Kuteyi discussed multiple vaccination sites that are being established by the county.

“The COVID-19 vaccine, at this time, is being presented by the Essex County Department of Health,” Kuteyi said, explaining that, of the five sites in Essex County, East Orange residents will ultimately be able to be vaccinated at Essex County College.