PARAMUS, N.J. — Last year, it took only two weeks for the Army Corps of Engineers to build this COVID pandemic field hospital at the New Bridge Medical Center in Paramus.
Its staff are currently administering about 1,200 vaccinations a day but New Bridge’s CEO, Deborah Visconi, says this facility, which currently runs for only seven hours each day, could do so much more.
“Our capacity is basically endless,” said Visconi. “We can run this 24 hours a day. We’re a hospital, so we have staff that can be here and vaccinate people.”
Visconi estimated they could ramp thing up to 4-5,000 a day but vaccine supply continues to be an issue in New Jersey, where the eligibility pool continues to expand.
Gov. Phil Murphy announced Friday residents 55 and older, along with people 16 or older with intellectual or developmental disabilities, will be able to get the shot effective May 1.
As New Jersey struggles with vaccine supply, COVID case numbers are rising. Murphy reported another 5,884 positive PCR and antigen test results Friday.
There are two other x-factors in this complicated COVID equation — achieving equitable access to vaccines in Black and brown neighborhoods and the dangerous impact of coronavirus variants.
Dr. Shareef Elnahal, CEO of Newark’s University Hospital, is working overtime to overcome both hurdles.
“The bulk of folks who are being admitted now are younger than what we used to see — between the ages of 50 and 59 and because we’re possibly seeing variants that are more severe, we’re starting to see younger people get sick enough to be admitted to the hospital,” Dr. Elnahal said.
But it’s not all bad news.
Further south in Jersey City, Health and Human Services Director Stacey Flanagan says her team has been recording about 100 new cases a day.
That’s down drastically from last month. Flanagan’s optimism is clearly dependent on getting more vaccine supply.
“We think that over the next two or three weeks this will plateau a bit as we get more and more vaccines into arms,” said Flanagan.
New Jersey is in luck. Gov. Murphy says the Garden State is scheduled to received almost a half-million vaccine does, the start of what he expects will be a continued vaccine allocation increase moving forward.