July 15, 2024
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July 15, 2024
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(Courtesy of SMGH) Purim this year marks the second anniversary of COVID-19, which was first reported as a pandemic by the World Health Organization in March 2020. And we spent those two years in isolation avoiding contact with anybody who could be a carrier of COVID.

“Doesn’t this sound strangely familiar?” asked George Matyjewicz, PhD, community liaison at St. Mary’s General Hospital. “Every Purim in the Megilla Esther, we read where Esther becomes Queen of Persia, married to King Ahasuerus and dealing with the wicked Haman! While all the Jews were out on the streets of Persia, giving each other gifts of food, distributing charity and celebrating in each other’s homes, Esther was bound by proverbial golden chains, trapped in the palace of the king she would never love, among a people who were not her own.

“Esther yearned to return to the humble streets of Shushan, where she could chat with her friends at the well, listen to her cousin Mordechai expound on the Torah and just live the life of a Jewish woman. Compare that to today, where we are trapped in our homes for two years, not because of a king, but rather because of an evil threat called COVID-19! Maybe this COVID-19 is the new Haman?

“And this isolation is getting to us all—time to open up the world. Or is it? Maybe it’s deja vu all over again.”

It was in 1918—104 years ago—when Americans found themselves in a similar predicament.1 Americans were living under various phases of quarantines, face-mask and stay-home orders just like today. It was the end of WWI, and they battled the H1N1 influenza epidemic2, also known as the Spanish Flu. On Armistice Day, they were dancing in the streets in celebration! Which led to higher case counts by the end of that month. The nation was used to restrictions as imposed in WWI, but by November they had had enough, and states lifted their restrictions—partly due to opposition campaigns by retailers, theater owners, unions and other economically stressed stakeholders.

By January, the USA was fully engulfed in its third wave of influenza, infecting one-third of the world’s population and killing approximately 675,000 Americans before subsiding in the summer of 19193.

And with Purim and parties coming up, if we are not careful, we will have another large spike like they did in 1918-1919.

“For the physicians, nurses and employees of New Jersey hospitals, COVID-19 doesn’t take a holiday,” said Edward J. Condit, president & CEO of St. Mary’s General Hospital in Passaic. “Our teammates serve on the pandemic’s frontlines each day, including holidays. And they too have parents, grandparents, children and grandchildren with whom they long to celebrate.”

Healthcare workers were considered frontline heroes during the first year of this pandemic. Today people are tired of COVID restrictions, and if they do go to hospitals, they are not as courteous to the staff, who are doing their job protecting the communities they serve. Help them protect you! Follow the personal precautions that can stop the spread of COVID-19. Keep your Purim and all Yom Tovim events small—fewer than 10 people. Gather outdoors if possible. Social distance. Wear facemasks. Wash your hands frequently. And by all means, stay home if you are sick.

Good health is one of life’s greatest blessings. Let’s show our gratitude to and for one another this holiday season by doing what we can to help protect each other’s health and to put an end to this COVID-19 pandemic!

A Freilechen Purim!

St. Mary’s General Hospital—nationally recognized, locally preferred among the top hospitals in America for health, quality and patient safety! A center of excellence for maternal-child care, the hospital has over 550 physicians and 1,200 employees, with every staff member committed to providing respectful, personalized, high-quality care to satisfy patients’ needs and exceed their expectations. St. Mary’s General is a proud member of Prime Healthcare, which has more Patient Safety Excellence Award recipients for five consecutive years (2016-2020) than any other health system in the country, including a “Top 15 Healthcare System” by Truven Health Analytics. To learn more about St. Mary’s General Hospital, visit https://www.smh-nj.com/ or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/StMarysGeneral.

For more information, please contact George Matyjewicz, PhD, community liaison, at [email protected].

1 “1918: ‘We Ditched the Mask and Celebrated,’” Jewish Link, December 3, 2020. P. 91

2 https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/2020/05/22/second-wave-coronavirus-spanish-flu-1918-philadelphia-st-louis-influenza-deaths-covid-19/3085405001/

3 https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-commemoration/pandemic-timeline-1918.htm

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