BAYONNE, NJ - In what hospital officials called a major, if only temporary, accomplishment, July 10 marked the first day since mid-March that there were no COVID-19 patients being treated at Bayonne Medical Center. “It is a bit surreal,” said Dr. Vijay Singh, Chief Hospital Executive.

“It was emotional after having gone through everything we’ve been through since March 16 when we started this,” he said. “Bayonne has lost so many.”

As of July 9, 74 Bayonne residents have died as a result of COVID-19.

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BMC has been working with the city and various corresponding agencies to cope with COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic. “The second to last patient was a woman who was with us for 73 days,” Dr. Singh said. “For a time, we weren’t sure she would make it. We tried every treatment we could with her. She was in and out of the ICU. But finally, she recovered.”

Strategies for dealing with the virus changed over the course of the pandemic, he said, noting that early on the hospital staff used different methods to try to cope with it, including therapies that included medicines.

“When the surge first hit, we were low on ventilators,” Singh said. “Our staff did not have enough information.” But gradually the state and the CDC came up with protocols, the hospital quickly adapted, developing isolation triage capabilities, prohibiting visitors, and others that led to dramatic stabilization in patients.

“The community practicing social distancing helped flatten the curve,” the healthcare professional said. “So, we went from 700 patients in May to 200 in June. We learned more innovations and techniques, and more state-of-the-art medical procedures.”

“But it was a multiple approach, not just one thing,” he said. “It was often a combination of new things, and things kept changing as new data came in.” This meant learning which treatments worked best on which patient.

“The science changed every few days,” Dr. Singh said. “It was unsettling on one hand. In March and April, we tried to see what worked. Later, when we saw what worked we could apply it.”

Thanking hospital staff as well as all frontline workers for their “unyielding commitment” to Bayonne’s health, Mayor Jimmy Davis also offered praise to local residents. “These months have been difficult and painful, and we mourn those we lost,” Davis said. “But through it all Bayonne stuck together and greatly cooperated with directives.”

While the hospital is prepared for a possible second round of the virus, including by having enough PPE on hand, going forward, he said, prevention is key. “We are testing employees voluntarily once a month for swab and every 14 days for antibodies,” he said. “We are using social distancing and education, trying to get our message out to the public.

“We have been extensively testing the community. We concentrated on seniors and others that were most at risk. We have tested all the city employees,” he said. The hospital also has an analyzer that can provide the results of a test within 25 minutes, and determine if the patient is indeed affiliated with COVID-19, the flu, or some other ailment.

“If it is a flu, we send them home with medications,” he said.

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