July 21, 2024
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Teaneck Holds COVID Panel

Mayor James Dunleavy and Township Manager Dean Kazinci recently moderated a panel of New Jersey state and local government officials and experts in the local health care community for a COVID-19 update. Panel members were Congressman Josh Gottheimer; Deborah Cornavacca, deputy chief of staff for Governor Phil Murphy; Dr. Luke Eyerman, family medicine, of Holy Name Hospital; Dr. Suraj Saggar, DO, chief, Department of Infectious Disease at Holy Name Hospital; and Dr. Gina Miranda-Diaz, Teaneck health officer.

Teaneck Deputy Mayor Mark Schwartz and Council members Karen Orgen and Michael Pagan were also in attendance. Kazinci opened by expressing appreciation to the governor’s office and local healthcare community. He noted in particular the full staff, both medical and support personnel of Holy Name Hospital, which has been “… a good neighbor to Teaneck, and instrumental in providing guidance and resources to keep us safe.” He recognized Michael Maron, president and CEO of Holy Name, for always making himself available to the township leaders.

Kazinci also made an announcement of importance to seniors and others with limited ability to travel to receive health care. Holy Name has initiated a new home-based and homebound mobile community program to better meet the needs of seniors and others who are challenged by the need to seek services away from home. The mobile service can provide testing as well as vaccines. Information is available by email at [email protected] or by calling the COVID-19 support helpline, 201-833-3336.

Dunleavy noted that many residents expressed confusion over the mixed messages coming from various governmental, media and social media sources, making a general request to panel members and experts to clarify these issues. One of the central issues of concern, he reported, was confusion about the time frame of greatest contagion with the omicron COVID variant. Saggar explained that the incubation period of omicron is shorter, about two days, and can range from one to two days before symptoms emerge and two to three days afterwards—but is not absolute.

The mayor implored the residents of Teaneck to comply with mask recommendations, stating, “Wear masks correctly: over both nose and mouth and extending under the chin.” He also strongly encouraged getting the flu shot, which was later addressed in detail by Saggar, who explained how to manage side effects, with the primary objective of avoiding the “twindemic” risk of contracting influenza and COVID concurrently.

He also asked Gottheimer and Cornavacca to address the fact that Medicare does not cover COVID rapid tests, but only PCR tests. There is also a free COVID home test available in which you can send for a test kit, and perform the test procedure on yourself under the live guidance of an online professional. To get a home self-test kit online, visit https://learn.vaulthealth.com/nj/

Gottheimer followed the mayor, also expressing thanks to Holy Name Hospital. “They’ve done a phenomenal job,” he said. Gottheimer also said, “We are working on more partnerships with domestic businesses to increase access to home COVID tests, and expand cutting-edge technologies for treating COVID.”

Representing the office of the governor, Cornavacca said: “We’ve had a bumpy start to 2022 … with the convergence of the holidays, the presence of both the COVID delta and omicron strains, and having reached the maximum efficacy of the vaccine. We want to de-escalate stress and tension, and we know how to work through this to the other side. We know more about mitigation with higher quality masks, better treatment, and that omicron peaks quickly. We will weather the storm together.”

Eyerman, a family medicine specialist, echoed that the majority of patients who are sick with any COVID strain are unvaccinated. Saggar added that pneumonia and strep pneumonia are also of concern, and strongly encouraged vaccination against those as well, but to wait a week between COVID and pneumonia inoculations. Additionally he urged to “not let other routine health care fall by the wayside,” including shingles shots for adults.

Saggar continued: “While we are not out of the woods, the current COVID strain is not as severe and is an upper respiratory (condition), not lower respiratory; but can be worse for children because they have smaller airways. Hospital stays are shorter, and we can expect to see new strains addressed in a yearly COVID vaccination. Vaccinated people clear the virus quicker, and generally do not require hospitalization.”

Regarding COVID tests, Saggar advised, “While PCR tests are more sensitive and more expensive, they also detect dead viruses, can be positive for a long time, and don’t differentiate between contagious and inactive disease.” He said the antigen test is less accurate.

Concluding his remarks, Saggar made mention of an oral antiviral “COVID pill,” in development and early testing by both Pfizer and Merck pharmaceutical companies.

By Ellie Wolf

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