On Thursday, Montclair hosted a COVID-19 Town Hall with virtual panel discussion regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and COVID-19 vaccination plans for our area, moderated by Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller. Here are some key takeaways:
Mountainside Received Pfizer Vaccine; Update on Patients and Pandemic Response
Dr. Valérie Allusson M.D., Chief Medical Officer at Hackensack Meridian Health Mountainside Medical Center and a Montclair resident, started by thanking the Montclair community for their amazing support during the first wave of the pandemic. Then she provided an update on Mountainside during this second surge.
“We’ve been averaging about 35 to 40 COVID-19 a day, much less than the 160 patients a day we had at the height of the pandemic in the spring,” said Allusson, adding that since the beginning of the pandemic, Mountainside has seen 550 patients recover, not counting patients who were treated and discharged from the emergency room.
“What we see now is that the severity of illness seems to be less,” said Allusson, compared to the first wave earlier this year. “It may also be because we know how to deal with this disease much better.”
Allusson said Mountainside’s primary goals are to treat everyone effectively using up-to-date treatments and to minimize exposure as much as possible.
“Every admitted patient in Mountainside is being tested for COVID-19 before being placed in a hospital bed. We have a COVID unit which is equipped with negative pressure ventilation. We also have been able to expand our PPE supplies effectively,”said Alluson, adding that Mountainside has been able to equip rooms with wifi cameras to better monitor patients.
Allusson said that Mountainside received its first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine Thursday.
“We are getting the Pfizer vaccine, which is, very similar to the Moderna,” she said. “Everyone in the hospital should get the vaccine. We are first targeting the people who are frontline workers, as well as staff with chronic disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc,” said Allusson, adding that a big concern is maintaining workforce capacity.
“You may expect some kind of systemic effects after getting the vaccine. So we want to make sure we have enough people working in the hospital at a given time to provide the best care for patients.”
Contact Tracing Still A “Huge Issue” in Montclair
Sue Portuese, Montclair Health Department Director, said the Township continues to have issues with contact tracing and people not willing to participate or provide contacts to help prevent further spread.
“They’re telling us that they will give a call to their contacts. So that’s a huge issue. If somebody from our department or the county or state calls you and says that they are doing contact tracing, please participate. It will help us to help contain the disease.”
Portuese says the Township is also working on how it will provide vaccination clinics.
“Our department has registered to be a provider and we’ll be setting up micro clinics throughout town,” Portuese said. “Normally during flu season, we would go to the senior buildings and vaccinate older residents for flu. We will be doing the same thing with the coronavirus vaccine. Not as quickly as the County will be ready, but probably by mid to late January, we will be getting out in the community and doing micro clinics.”
Portuese also said the Township is planning on a drive-through clinic, for the community at general, when that phase of the vaccine is available to the public.
Essex County Vaccination Clinics Expected to Start Next Week with Moderna Vaccine
Essex County Health Office Maya Lordo spoke more about the county’s response to the pandemic and its plans for vaccination clinics.
Lordo stated that the county opened its first testing site on March 26 and that residents of Montclair have been second highest users of the county’s Essex Covid website.
“We’re really happy that you are familiar with that website because that is the exact same site we will be using for vaccination clinics, which we’ll be starting by appointment only. The vaccination clinics will start off with four different locations, and then adding a fifth. The Montclair location vaccination clinic is in the old Kmart facility in West Orange.”
Essex County could begin vaccination next week, depending on today’s FDA advisory panel for the Moderna vaccine.
“With that being said, the County will be offering the Moderna vaccine at all of our sites,” said Lordo, adding that vaccinations will begin with the Phase One A individuals — the health care force.
“And by the healthcare workers, we do mean anybody who is a paid or unpaid health workers. Not just doctors and hospital facilities, because they are looking to vaccinate their own staff. We are looking to vaccinate anyone in the community, with a medical or a health care job or anyone who is employed at a healthcare facility,” she added.
Lordo said Essex County residents can expect a mailer specifying the population that is first to be vaccinated and how other residents will become eligible.
“Our job at the County is to get it out as soon as we can to, to as many individuals as we can, and to get it done as quickly as we can,” Lordo said.