With the coronavirus still among us, Rep. Josh Gottheimer convened a meeting to outline challenges and critical steps North Jersey needs to take to help prevent and be prepared for a potential second wave of COVID-19 cases in the 5th District this Fall.
Gottheimer held a Zoom call on Sept. 3 with community leaders to discuss what the region can expect this Fall, including Holy Name Medical Center Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Adam Jarrett, Bergen New Bridge Medical Center CEO Deb Visconi, Andover Township Mayor Michael Lensak and New Milford Fire Chief Bill Mury.
The discussion focused on with the start of Fall, measures that have helped combat the spread of the coronavirus—such as outdoor gatherings—will be less feasible. The decline in outdoor activities is coinciding with activities held primarily indoors increasing, including students and staff returning to school, the opening of gyms, and religious holidays gatherings. Those actions coupled with the oncoming flu season could play a role in COVID-19 spikes in the coming months.
“Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve known that a second wave is likely,” said Gottheimer. “The severity of this next wave comes down to how prepared we are for it—which all depends on our communities and residents continuing to follow proper safety protocols and having the resources in place to protect our communities.”
The medical professionals encouraged the public to continue to wear masks and social distance in accordance with state guidelines until a vaccine that’s been vetted is considered safe.
“We are certainly encouraged by the consistently low COVID-related volume we’re seeing, but want to remind our community to stay vigilant, especially as we see spikes in other parts of the country and with flu season fast approaching,” said Holy Name’s Jarrett. “We are absolutely better equipped to handle a second wave in terms of operations, protective gear, and staffing. While the research and medical community are working non-stop to better understand this virus, a treatment and vaccine requires time.”
Jarrett noted if a surge on the scale seen in the Spring was to happen again, one area of concern is staffing. In March and April, hospitals in the state were able to use out-of-state nurses who volunteered to help. Now with other states facing their own battles with COVID-19 and local workers having to worry about school schedules for their children, the ability to be fully staffed could become a concern.
New Bridges’ Visconi added “As we head into the Fall and prepare for a potential second wave of COVID-19, it’s critical that our health systems, hospitals, and long-term care facilities are prepared to fight this virus, that they’re properly staffed, and that everyone has the protective equipment they need.”
Mury noted the importance of first responders obtaining and stocking up on personal protection equipment. “Now that we are moving into the cold and flu season and it will be difficult to distinguish during an incident if the occupant is COVID-positive or if they simply have a cold or the flu,” the fire chief stated.
Jarret agreed with Andover’s Lensak that the flu season may be lessened this year due to precautions we are currently taking to fight the pandemic, including wearing masks and constant hand washing.
Jared M. Maples, Director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, noted as we move into September, North Jersey’s attentiveness to fighting the spread of COVID-19 is as important as ever.
“Social distancing, masks, hand-washing, and other preventative measures will help slow the spread of both COVID-19 and common influenza,” said Maples. “Continued focus on these simple techniques will help mitigate the strain on hospitals and other healthcare providers and reduce the chances of a second wave of COVID-19 infections.”
For those in Washington, Gottheimer said it was “outrageous” that lawmakers are not currently negotiating for more COVID-19 relief to help municipalities as well as fund programs that helped individuals and small businesses.
“The federal resources that are already coming back here to the Fifth District, the precautions we need to take, and the legislation I’m continuing to fight for at the federal level—they are all steps to protect our students and teachers, our seniors, veterans, those living in long-term care facilities, our brave first responders, frontline health care workers, families, small businesses, and all our local communities,” said Gottheimer.