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Wednesday, April 08, 2020
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(Courtesy of St. Mary’s Hospital) As of March 23, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported 33,404 cases with 400 deaths1. Those numbers are changing daily. New Jersey, with 2,844 cases as of the date this was written, has become the state with the second most cases of coronavirus, second only to New York..

St. Mary’s General Hospital has a page on its website dedicated to COVID-19 which includes Q&A. Two common questions are:

STATE

CASES

DEATHS

% DEATHS

New York

20,875

157

0.75%

New Jersey

2,844

27

0.95%

California

2,240

39

1.74%

Washington

2,101

109

5.19%

Michigan

1,324

16

1.21%

Illinois

1,285

12

0.93%

Florida

1,222

16

1.31%

Louisiana

1,172

34

2.90%

Georgia

800

25

3.13%

Massachusetts

777

5

0.64%

Where can I get tested for COVID-19?

Sites for outpatient testing for COVID-19 have been limited in our community to date, but new testing access and capabilities are becoming available each day. Community-based testing is now available at Bergen County Community College and PNC Bank Arts Center, as well as other locations across the state. The NJDOH will provide updates for these centers and more2.

Remember, your first resource is your primary care doctor, who knows you best. Please contact your doctor if you have symptoms that would usually result in your making an appointment, including fever higher than 100.4, cough and shortness of breath.

Can St. Mary’s General test me for COVID-19?

It is important for members of our community to be aware that hospitals are not COVID-19 screening centers. St. Mary’s General, along with all hospitals, are for individuals experiencing serious health episodes. In regard to COVID-19, this would include trouble breathing or a consistent fever of over 100.4 degrees. Many infected with COVID-19 will display minimal symptoms and will be able to recover comfortably at home. A general rule of thumb, whether or not you are experiencing any symptoms, is to practice social distancing in public places at all times—6 feet away from another person. The New Jersey Department of Health has a 24-hour hotline at (800) 222-1222, where trained health care professionals are standing by to answer questions about COVID-19.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 then you should immediately go to the ER. St. Mary’s General Hospital has implemented new protocols to ensure the safety of patients as much as possible. Your temperature will be checked upon entering and depending on your overall condition you may be released to self-quarantine at home or placed in a reserved isolated area in the ER where health professionals will gather a specimen to be sent out to a testing laboratory. Due to the overwhelming number of tests being performed, results usually take 4-7 days for results.

For the state-run drive-thru centers, people will need to show symptoms of a respiratory illness in order to get tested. Those who show up at the state-run testing sites will be screened for symptoms, and if they are deemed to be asymptomatic—showing no obvious signs of the coronavirus—they will not be tested. Health officials said residents must bring state identification, such as a driver’s license, to the testing facilities. And if your doctor has given you a prescription for the testing, bring it, even though it is not required.

Some privately-run testing sites have a pre-screening process. Patients have to call in to be screened by an expert and the tests are for their patients only.

Education and Strain on Facilities

“We all need to be educated on COVID-19, and not panic with every piece of news being distributed,” said George Matyjewicz, the community liaison at St. Mary’s General Hospital. “In our Passaic-Clifton kehila we have a COVID-19 task force consisting of doctors, rabbanim, and key people who meet regularly and distribute educational material including Town Talks to our community. And they developed a website for information.3

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a major strain on all healthcare facilities in New Jersey and across the country, and there is a serious shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE)—masks, gloves and gowns— with some facilities dangerously low and in some cases out completely. Governor Murphy announced a new “unified command” to centralize the collection, inventory, and distribution of these supplies. The state has tried to acquire them from the federal stockpile, commercial vendors, and private donations.

This pandemic has facilities focusing only on COVID-19, which means surgeries are being carefully reviewed and elective surgeries are out. In a press release on March 23, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order No. 109, directing the suspension of all elective surgeries and invasive procedures performed on adults. “Our new reality calls for aggressive action to reduce the burden on our health-care system and protect our frontline medical responders,” said Governor Murphy. “Given the dramatic shortfall in personal protective equipment we face, it’s imperative that we work with our partners in health care to strategically preserve supplies and equipment for emergency purposes only.”

In addition to the suspension outlined above, Governor Murphy’s Executive Order also requires that any business, non-hospital health-care facility, or institution of higher learning in possession of PPE, ventilators, respirators or anesthesia machines not required for the provision of critical health care services shall undertake an inventory of these supplies and send that information to the state by 5 p.m. on Friday, March 27.

Companies like Fiat, IBM, Apple and others with manufacturing facilities in China are making and donating PPE supplies to help stem this pandemic. The question is: how quickly will our healthcare facilities get them?

“The state, county and cities of Passaic and Clifton have all been sending press releases to communities for distribution,” said Matyjewicz. “Since I am the central communications link for Passaic-Clifton I get them and speedily distribute them. But, it all comes down to you and me to self-quarantine to help turn this tide. This chart on social distancing explains it all very simply—the less people you come in contact with, the lower the chance of passing it on. And sing Happy Birthday each time you wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds!”

For additional information or a tour of the hospital, contact the community liaison, George Matyjewicz, at [email protected]

1 50 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and US Virgin Islands

2 https://covid19.nj.gov/faqs/nj-information/testing-information/where-are-testing-centers-in-new-jersey

3 https://www.pccovidupdate.com/

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