Of the 96 Covid cases diagnosed in Maplewood in September, 52 were breakthrough cases in vaccinated people. The remaining 44 cases were in unvaccinated individuals.
Maplewood Health Officer Candice Davenport reported these statistics Tuesday night as part of the Board of Health meeting held during the Maplewood Township Committee meeting.
Davenport said that the nearly-even split between cases in vaccinated people and in unvaccinated people might sound alarming, but that vaccinations will reduce the overall spread of the virus. “For all of those who are unvaccinated,” she said, “that number could be reduced. So please get vaccinated. That would really help reduce the spread in the community.”
Travel, Davenport said, was a factor in the increase in breakthrough cases, as nearly a quarter of cases in vaccinated individuals were in people who had been exposed to the virus while traveling. “Travel does have an effect even if you are vaccinated,” she said, urging people to “reduce exposure to crowds, wear masks in crowds, and be careful.”
Young people in their 20s were proving increasingly vulnerable, as were the elderly, said Davenport, pointing to an uptick in Covid-19 cases among people aged 20-29 and in those aged 70-79, even as cases of young children and residents in their 30s and 40s decreased.
Maplewood will continue to offer residents free Covid testing in its Medi-Mobile facility in the Columbia High School parking lot on Saturdays from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Davenport encouraged vaccinated individuals who had not been exposed to Covid to avoid unnecessary testing, as she said that had resulted in some false-positive tests that then require several follow-up tests and are burdensome to both the person being tested as well as the health care system.
Taliah Jeffers, Maplewood’s Vulnerable People Outreach Coordinator — hired through a federal grant in January — said that although initially her job strictly entailed connecting residents with COVID-related resources, it has since expanded to helping people throughout Maplewood find needed social services.
“COVID-19 was the illness that exposed other social needs,” Jeffers said. “Transportation, health insurance, how to apply for SNAP benefits, and so much more.” She said that she and her co-workers have become essential conduits between residents and county and state services. “Our ultimate goal is to provide a healthier way of living,” said Jeffers.
Maplewood, in conjunction with Braven Health, will provide local senior citizens with two community health sessions this month, Jeffers said. No registration is necessary for either session. On October 25, residents can attend a Medicare 101 presentation at the Maplewood Senior Center. On October 29, they can return to receive needed health screenings, including those measuring blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. Staff will help decode the findings of those tests and provide resources for follow-up.
“People are reluctant to do primary care” because of the pandemic, Jeffers said, echoing a point made by Maplewood Mayor Frank McGehee earlier in the meeting during a discussion of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. McGehee said that people were hesitant to get breast-cancer screenings during the pandemic, but reiterated their importance in detecting cancer early, as did Township Committee member Nancy Adams, herself a breast cancer survivor thanks to early detection during a routine screening.
“So this is that push. We’ll provide it to you,” said Jeffers.
Additionally, Davenport said that the open enrollment period for New Jersey’s health insurance marketplace, Get Covered NJ, is now open for an extended period as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and urged people to get insured. Insurance, she said, could even be a means of increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates once people find regular providers. “Getting health insurance is another gateway to allow people to get attention for medical needs that they might have.”