Verona Gets Vaccinated

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Dr. Meredith Blitz-Goldstein is part of a growing cohort of health professionals in Verona and across the state who are getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

Dr. Meredith Blitz-Goldstein is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon at St. Joseph’s University Medical Center in Paterson. She treats diseases and injuries to the head, neck, face and mouth, the kinds of situations that mean that patients can’t be masked while she works on them. Since the pandemic unfolded in New Jersey last March, that has put her at substantial risk. On December 19, that level of risk put her in a priority group to be vaccinated against COVID-19–and she got the shot.

“I have been waiting for this vaccine,” says Blitz-Goldstein. “I watched people die from COVID early on. This vaccine protects me, my family, my patients and my community.”

Blitz-Goldstein is part of a growing cohort of health professionals in Verona and across the state who are getting vaccinated against COVID-19. Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday that, as of Sunday afternoon, 26 hospitals had given the first of the two shots needed for Pfizer’s vaccine to 8,740 people.

On Monday, Steve Chait added to that tally. A paramedic at University Hospital in Newark, he has watched COVID-19 progress from something he didn’t think he needed to worry about to a health crisis that has infected more than 20,000 Newarkers and caused 751 deaths. He has managed to avoid infection, but many other Verona residents haven’t: As of this morning, 434 Veronans have tested positive for COVID-19, up 44% from the start of December. Fifteen Veronans have died of COVID-19, which is on track to be the third leading cause of death in town this year.

“I’m in a mask 12 hours a day,” says Chait, who alternates between a procedure mask, and P-100 and N-95 respirators. “I put the masks on and climb three flights of stairs with 50 pounds of equipment. I come into my house through the garage, change there and everything I wear gets washed so I can start over again. I find it hard to accept people’s lack of responsibility.”

Under that mask, Steve Chait is smiling

Chait, who describes himself as “extremely pro-vaccine,” also tried to volunteer to participate in the trial for Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, is likely to be available in February. “I have to get a flu shot every year for work, and if I don’t, they deactivate my ID.”

COVID-19 vaccinations will ease life somewhat for Chait and Blitz-Goldstein, though both say they will continue to follow pandemic protocols. Essex County has readied five vaccination sites and officials hope they will be able to begin vaccinating doctors in private practice and their staffs, ambulatory care workers, and pharmacy and dental workers soon, perhaps as early as this Saturday, December 26. When the sites get enough doses to vaccinate the broader public, Verona residents will be directed to get theirs at the former KMart store in West Orange.

But Blitz-Goldstein has been moved to tears by the anti-vaccination posts that she has seen on social media. “I am completely disheartened that people are turning away from science at a time when we need science to out of this,” she says. “For those of us trying so hard to prevent the collapse of our healthcare system, it is so hard to see.” Blitz-Goldstein is urging her fellow Verona residents to get information on the vaccine from medical professionals and not Facebook. (There is also detailed information on the vaccines on the state’s COVID-19 information site.)

“I’m trying to be a model as somebody who believes in the science,” Blitz-Goldstein says, “and believes that this is our way out.”

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected].

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