New Jersey has the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases in the United States, according to CNN Health. The East Coast is seeing a rapid increase in cases daily due to its many highly populated cities.
The medical field is overwhelmed. Crowds of people are flooding local hospitals to get tested for the virus, terrified that they may have contracted it.
Limited numbers of hospital beds, testing kits and tools are making the fight against the virus challenging. Local hospitals such as Saint Mary’s in Passaic have seen a few cases, but are prepared for the number of patients projected to increase in the next few weeks.
Francis Vargas, a phlebotomist and EKG technician at Saint Mary’s, said that the hospital always has a plan for adapting to emergency situations.
“When the government started to say to close everything down is when I realized how serious the situation was,” said Vargas.
Vargas believes that the impact of COVID-19 woke people up to the reality of how easy it is to get viruses.
“This has shown people that germs stay on your hands and clothing,” Vargas explained. “Even though this is a more severe virus people’s attitudes will change when it comes to washing hands. We should all be more cautious.”
Many medical professionals witnessing this pandemic unfold feel pessimistic about how the public will behave once life returns to normalcy.
Katherine Caicedo, a medical assistant at a hospital in Essex County, New Jersey, believes a lot of people are not taking the coronavirus social distancing order in the state seriously.
“The situation has me in the middle,” she said. “I know we can overcome this and I’m hopeful a cure will be out soon, but a lot of people I know, mostly my age in their 20s, are not practicing social distancing and are even traveling because of the drop in airfares. If this continues, we won’t ever get it under control, and I fear for my family that lives in the area.”
With the numbers of coronavirus cases increasing rapidly in New Jersey, hospital staff members are encouraging people to continue to practice social distancing.
Caicedo said she doesn’t believe the impact of COVID-19 will make people think differently about other viruses.
“I don’t think people will be more cautious of germs, because once this is resolved it will be a thing of the past,” Caicedo said. “People will continue caring for a couple of months, but soon after they will forget.”