By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
NORTHFIELD – The number of COVID-19 cases is rising rapidly as the nation approaches the Thanksgiving holiday season.
On Saturday, Nov. 14, the county reported a one-day increase of 170 new positives among 79 males, ages 2-94, and 91 females, ages 3 months to 87. There were also two deaths in an 82-year-old man and a 51-year-old woman, both from Pleasantville and both with pre-existing conditions. Saturday’s total positive number was the highest since the county began posting daily updates on Sept. 14.
Cumulative totals for the Downbeach area show a total of 14 positives and no deaths in Longport, 119 positives and two deaths in Margate, and 192 positives and three deaths in Ventnor.
Daily updates are posted at https://www.atlantic-county.org/covid/daily-counts.asp
According to Atlantic County Division of Public Health director Pat Diamond, the sharp increase in the number of cases in the county and state since mid-October is a result of indoor gatherings, including at home.
Cases are increasing in the younger population, ages 18-29, but also in males, ages 30-59, she said.
“This increase in cases appears to be associated with transmissions at small gatherings, especially indoors, and day-after-day in households and families,” she reported to the Board of Chosen Freeholders Tuesday, Nov. 10. “We take down our guard with people we know. We assume, ‘I know you and you couldn’t have COVID.’”
Community spread is occurring, she said, reminding everyone to abide by 6-feet social distancing, mask wearing, frequent hand-washing and avoiding crowds.
There are also more people getting tested because they are showing symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive. The rise is also associated with an increase in testing available in the county.
Diamond said people should get tested if they exhibit symptoms, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, new loss of taste or smell, or have been in close contact with someone who tested positive, or directed to obtain testing by a physician.
Atlantic County continues to provide COVID-19 testing by appointment for county residents at 617 Dolphin Ave., Northfield, behind the county’s public works yard. Testing will continue to be held each Tuesday through Nov. 24. Appointments can be made online at https://www.atlantic-county.org/covid/
Additional testing sites in Atlantic County are posted at https://www.atlantic-county.org/covid/additional-testing-locations.asp
“As the weather turns colder, indoor gatherings should be limited to immediate household members. As people plan for seasonal holidays and celebrations, the recommendation from the State Department of Health is to limit the number of close relatives or friends, or plan parties outdoors as much as possible,” she said.
Diamond said the county has increased the number of contact tracers to 32 from 21 to track the spread of the virus.
A COVID-19 support service coordinator has also been hired to help people who need to isolate obtain the resources they need to prevent the spread as much as possible, she said.
The county has also met with school district officials to provide updates and answer questions.
Diamond said it is important for people to get a flu shot from their health care provider or at one of the county’s clinics in Northfield and Hammonton.
The county is already preparing for distribution of a vaccine when it becomes available, Diamond said.
“Vaccines will be distributed in a phased-in approach and will be scarce at first,” she said.
Initial doses will first go to healthcare and essential workers, followed by those at high risk, and then to the general population, she said.
The county is actively working to establish vaccine distribution locations, scheduling, and obtain the supplies needed to handle the vaccine safely.
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