A COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed in phases as early as mid- to late-January, according to Janet Castro, the health officer for half of the municipalities in Hudson County.
“We are anticipating actually receiving shipments as early as late December to begin distributing as early as January: mid-to-late January,” Castro said during a Zoom interview this afternoon.
She continued that the current statewide plan is for the vaccine to be distributed in phases, that will begin with first responders, with the hope of 70 percent of the New Jersey’s population (which is just under nine million people) to be vaccinated within six months.
“We administer these vaccines, we need to prioritize them: essential workers, healthcare workers, immunocompromised, elderly populations, and then it will be the general population. Now children are not part of that general population just yet just because of the risk of COVID in children is still relatively small.”
Yesterday, Moderna was the second company, following Pfizer, to announce a COVID-19 vaccine trial that had an over 90 percent success right.
Still, the results of a Rutgers-Eagleton Center poll, conducted prior to the presidential race and released today, reveals that about four in 10 New Jerseyans are not comfortable getting the vaccine yet due to concerns about side effects and/or a lack of information.
Castro, who serves as the health officer in North Bergen, Union City, Guttenberg, Weehawken, Harrison, and Secaucus, said that the second wave came a little sooner than expected, though it was always a question of when.
“We’ve been seeing the numbers rise: they started to creep up in October – about a month ago we started to see a very slow rise and then in the past two weeks its been exponential,” she explained.
According to the New Jersey Department of Health, there have been 27,372 confirmed cases of the coronavirus to date, along with 1,391 related deaths – both the third most in the state by county.
Out of the six municipalities where Castro works, she said that Union City, North Bergen, and Harrison saw the most significant spikes in recent weeks.
“Union City, unfortunately, has always taken the lead on the numbers and North Bergen a very close second, at least in our North Hudson [area], Jersey City is of course number one in the county obviously based on population,” she explained.
She continued that long-term care facilities are the public schools are the areas where outbreaks have been most common in North Hudson.
Furthermore, Castro later said “an alarming trend” in Harrison led to the NJ DOH to set up a COVID-19 tracing team, taking similar action in Union City as well.
Harrison is reporting 742 infections and 22 deaths as of November 15th, Union City has disclosing 4,674 cases and 226 fatalities as of November 10th, with North Bergen noting 3,999 cases and an undetermined amount of deaths as of yesterday.
While Castro expressed relief that deaths and hospitalizations are happening much more infrequently than they were in say April, she said infections continue to climb as many businesses have remained open since the middle of the summer.
Also recommending celebrating Thanksgiving with just your nuclear family if possible, the health official said that based on current trends, a second lockdown seems likely after the holiday season.
“I think right after the holidays … we’ll probably see that some time in January. Listen, it’s pretty unpredictable, but that’s what I’m assuming. The cases are rising steadily now, I can’t even imagine what they’ll be another month-and-a-half from now.”
Yesterday, the governor scaled back private gatherings to just 10 people and outdoor gatherings will be limited to 150 people as of November 23rd, though their are many caveats such as political functions, weddings, and funerals.
Additionally, when schools re-opened in September, some districts opted for a hybrid learning plan where staff still came in on a staggered schedule to complement remote learning.
While Gov. Phil Murphy (D) has held off on limiting schools to virtual sessions only, as he did back in March, Castro says that is a likely next step prior to another shut down.
“I think that may happen a bit before the governor implements his orders. The reason for that is we tend to see a lot of staff essentially getting sick and it’s inevitable once we bring in the children that will only get more complex,” Castro explained.
She also commended the school nurses and administrators she works with for being great partners and coming up with plans that place on emphasis on public safety.