We continue to see new cases in Crown Heights, including cases of community spread, indicating that the virus is spreading among us. This worrisome trend is mirrored in our neighboring frum communities in New York City, which are seeing many new cases as well, unfortunately.
Below is a graph of cases locally here in Crown Heights, expressed as a moving 7-day average of daily cases (in order to better convey the change over time).
As can be seen, the absolute number of cases remains low, however we are having a disturbing increase in the frequency of cases. An additional critical feature is that whereas in July the cases were all those coming from hotspot areas, our recent cases now include a handful which seem to be community spread.
More cases of reinfection have been reported worldwide as well as here, but at this time it appears to be a rare phenomenon. The next month will be very telling, as a lot of policy is predicated on considering those who have had the virus as not likely to be infectious or become reinfected.
In addition to the above, we now have children returning from camps (many of which appear to have had outbreaks), travelers returning home, and an influx of students and guests, and therefore we will likely experience an increase in the amount of cases seen on a daily basis.
What do these facts mean for the average member of anash ,living here in Crown Heights,and what should be done about the situation?
Those members of anash who remain vulnerable (predominantly those who did not have the disease, although even those who have had the disease may have lost some immunity), and are at high risk (due to old age or underlying medical disease, including obesity) need to protect themselves. We suggest taking the following measures, knowing how difficult it will be to carry out.
- Those at risk should be careful when opening their homes to relatives and friends who may be carrying the virus. The best, but not fool-proof, policy would be to only host those who have had the virus, exercising care at all times, not to have larger crowds in small quarters where people have masks off while eating. Additionally, avoiding socializing with anyone who should be in quarantine or who does not feel well.
- Shul services: Outdoor minyanim where there is spacing and fresh air are still preferable. Alternatively, find a shul with a stable minyan, not crowded, where distancing is possible. We do not consider the Kiddush, where masks are off, a safe place to be.
- The traffic in 770, along with the physical difficulties of distancing and lack of mask wearing, make it a particularly high risk venue. We advise those who are vulnerable not to daven there.
- Avoid crowded indoor simchas. Studies have shown that singing/talking together loudly indoors, and even dancing together outdoors, is a most effective way of spreading the virus.
- Wearing a mask. Much has been said pro and against, however this is not a political/social issue but a medical one. It is clear that if all parties wear masks at all times in public there will be reduced spread of the virus. It is also true that for many, mask wearing is bothersome and seems pointless. Presented with rational guidelines perhaps smart mask wearing will take place.
- All those that are vulnerable should wear a mask when in any public forum (except when walking down a quiet sidewalk, where the possible obstruction to vision may outweigh the minimal benefits). In addition to whatever degree the mask is protective, it also serves as a sign to others that you are vulnerable.
- Everyone, including those who have had the illness, when in close social contact with strangers (not immediate family) should wear a mask. This is most helpful in the event that one is unbeknownst to themselves possibly infectious.
- In any crowded indoor setting where close social contact is unavoidable, one should wear a mask. At simchas and large gatherings of people, even outdoors, masks should be worn.
- One who is in quarantine but who needs to go out for essential purposes must be strict with themselves to wear a mask at all times in public, and not engage socially with others.
The other side of protecting the vulnerable and not spreading the virus is the responsibility that each and every one of us has to our fellow. Please, please, if you or your children do not feel well in any slight way, even if you consider this to be absolutely nothing that would normally hold you back, these are different times and require a different action. STAY HOME if you have even minor symptoms, and arrange to be tested. You should isolate until your test results come back. If positive, please follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations for isolation and quarantine as appropriate. It must be stressed again that isolation/quarantine requires one to stay in their place of residence all the time. A person with mild symptoms may well be infectious. Extreme caution (going beyond your comfort zone) in order to protect others is the order of the day. In a similar vein, to protect oneself, one should avoid socializing with others who have even mild symptoms.
As schools return, this is also critical. If schools are to continue functioning normally, then we cannot afford to have multiple cases in any school. Any child who is just not quite themselves should not attend school. Neither should children/teachers who are in quarantine. All of the protective mechanisms in schools will fail if sick children (or teachers) go to school, and thus jeopardize our efforts to keep the schools open.
On a closing note, failure to report illness due to COVID to those who may need to take some sort of action and protect themselves is a dangerous practice. There is no embarrassment to being ill, or inadvertently exposing others. Tell those with whom you have had contact so that they themselves don’t become spreaders. If anyone has new symptoms suspicious of COVID, or confirmed COVID, please log that here: New COVID Registry
May we only have good news and continued health.
Ksiva Vachasima Tovah,
– The Gedaliah Society, in conjunction with Dr. Rosen