Increase in COVID hospitalizations has Camden County officials concerned

Cooper University Hospital in Camden, N.J. (Mel Evans/AP Photo)

Cooper University Hospital in Camden, N.J. (Mel Evans/AP Photo)

Ask us about COVID-19: What questions do you have about the coronavirus and vaccines?

Camden County officials held a virtual town hall to discuss the COVID situation, warning people that the pandemic is far from over and booster shots are a good way to stay protected.

Commissioner Melinda Kane said there are over 260 people in county hospitals as a result of the continued spread of COVID-19.

Kane said, “Over the last seven days, we are averaging 115 new cases of COVID each day, and that’s an increase.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

The Commissioner stressed the effectiveness of the vaccines, saying, “Since the mass distribution of vaccines started in 2021, more than 95% of all deaths are among those that are not vaccinated.”

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Mark Condoluci said of the people coming into the hospitals, “Some are vaccinated, the majority are not. And you can see there is a big chasm, a large difference in how severe the virus is affecting folks.” He explained, “Those who are vaccinated, if they were to come into the hospital because of COVID, generally do rather well. Whereas the folks who come into the hospital and are not vaccinated… there definitely is a challenge.”

Condaluci also spoke about the rate of spread increasing to 1.12. He clarified that this means, “If a person were to have COVID, they are affecting more than one person. … And the higher the number, the more people they essentially will be transmitting it to. You generally want that number to be below one just because when it’s below one, obviously there’s less transmission and it allows the population essentially to disallow the virus from taking hold.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Gabrielle Sweeney, COVID-19 Data Manager and Epidemiologist for Camden County said, “This increase in numbers across the board was something that we did anticipate just after the Thanksgiving holiday. And as we’re entering the colder months, people will be gathering indoors more, and we know that that’s a common source of exposure. And through our contact-tracing efforts at the county, our top three sources of exposure that we’re seeing right now are: the household and family contact, that’s number one. Then it would be exposed at the workplace and at social gatherings.”

The question of how the flu would impact the region was also discussed at the hearing. Condaluci said, “It’s difficult and you may not be able to distinguish the symptoms from COVID or influenza. They’re both respiratory viruses, meaning they affect lungs … and they can cause fevers, muscle aches, cough symptoms such as those. They’re very similar in that response. So, you might not be able to differentiate between the two viruses without testing, for example. Ways to prevent that: Of course, we have vaccinations for both, and the influenza is in our area. And so, there is a worry that it could be a bad flu season.” He said the reason for the thought is that immunity is built up against the flu on a year-to-year basis and because of the lockdown there weren’t many cases of the flu last year or people exposed to it.

The county is continuing to run a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Blackwood campus of Camden County College in addition to area health centers. They are considering whether or not to add flu vaccinations at the college site.

Saturdays just got more interesting.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal