The following is the data we have from our local Crown Heights community since the beginning of October (coinciding roughly with the beginning of Sukkos). The information is accurate to the best of our knowledge, although we suspect that there is a degree of underreporting and the numbers are likely in fact higher.
These total approximately 90 cases; the vast majority of these reflect patients who were symptomatic and then tested positive for COVID. A small amount are those who were not tested but in whom there is a very strong clinical suspicion of COVID, and a small amount are those who tested positive but did not have symptoms. These cases are almost entirely among local residents of Crown Heights. Among these 90 patients, 4 appear to be reinfections; the rest of the infections are in those who have not previously been ill with COVID.
The average age of these 90 patients is approximately 34 years old. 14 of these patients are above the age of 60, and when assessing this higher risk group (those above 60 years of age), the following is the graph of when these patients developed symptoms.
A small handful of these patients over 60 required hospitalization, all within the past week or two. Of those who required hospitalization, all are back home Boruch Hashem, and we wish them a speedy and complete recovery. We must remain cognizant that this illness may still be severe and occasionally dangerous to life.
From the above data, some observations can be made:
- COVID is currently present in our community, spreading locally, and has recently begun to affect those above age 60 more than during the month of Tishrei. The overall numbers of those infected remain relatively low, Boruch Hashem, and we pray it continues that way.
- As expected, infection rates in schools and yeshivas appear to be low at this time. Older vulnerable teachers must however still be cautious.
- Reinfection does indeed seem to be a real phenomenon, however for the time being seems to be not a common occurrence. In that vein, we are cautiously optimistic that the widespread infection we’ve experienced as a community in the spring is contributing a degree of protection, and accounts for the continued relatively low numbers locally. We hope and pray it continues this way.
- Those currently getting sick seem to be less ill than those who were getting ill in the springtime. Of the possible factors accounting for this phenomenon, the one that seems the most plausible is a decreased inoculum (amount of viral particles) that any person who contracts the virus is exposed to. In March/April individuals were exposed to multiple infected others, none of whom were wearing masks or distancing. Currently the average exposure is to a single individual, who may hopefully be wearing a mask, and thus the recipient is going to get infected by a smaller infectious load. It is too early to state whether there is also an inherent change in the virulence of the virus. There obviously remains a lot to learn.
Based on this data and the observations above, the following are some recommendations which are an attempt to continue to protect our vulnerable, keep our schools open, and allow our community to go on living their day to day lives as close to normal as possible:
- Those who are most vulnerable (those above age 60, and those who have not been sick) should be particularly careful to socially distance and insist on mutual mask wearing during social contact. People in this category should be careful not to mingle at kidushim and simchas.
- Anyone who is feeling ill should stay home and not risk giving the illness to others, and definitely wear a mask. They should follow isolation guidelines, unless specifically cleared from COVID by their healthcare provider.
- Quarantine: This is designed to prevent spread of disease by those who may have caught the virus, have become infectious, but have not yet felt sick and therefore wouldn’t normally stay home. At this time we understand that most of the community has quarantine burn out; stopping everything and being alone for 14 days has become very impracticable and onerous. IYH we hope cases will soon decrease locally and only be few and far in between, and quarantine will not continue to be a burden.
- Testing: Recent change in rules by the government suggest an ever increasing reliance on testing, in order to determine prevalence in any one area. We hope that our neighborhood will not enter under that restriction, but it would appear that testing will become more common, as long as we continue to have cases.
- All of the above measures are designed to reduce prevalence of new cases. The relative contribution of each measure is unclear, but taken together we can reduce the spread locally. Reducing local spread is the most important thing we can do to ensure that our day to day lives, including school, shul, work, social engagements, etc, can continue in as normal a manner as possible.
With a fervent prayer that this whole episode will be over soon, and we can go forward to greet the Rebbe in joy and good health!
- The Gedaliah Society, in conjunction with Dr. Rosen