PATERSON, NJ — Young people are not immune to the impacts of COVID-19, coronavirus, a doctor of emergency medicine said Wednesday.

Dr. Anand Swaminathan, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, Paterson, told TAPinto that he treated 30 people with COVID-19 during one shift last week, and he has seen young people severely impacted by the virus.

“We’re seeing more young patients in the emergency department than I thought we would,” Swaminathan said. “And they are getting very, very sick.”

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Swaminathan reiterated that while younger people are not as prone to the fatal impacts of COVID-19 as the elderly, they are prone to spreading the disease — hence the need to practice social distancing.

“Even if kids are getting a mild disease, adults are not getting a mild disease, and the kids are almost like a vector,” Swaminathan said.

Swaminathan, who lives in Westfield, said he has seen children playing basketball there and emphasized the need for social distancing.

What if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19?

“Because we have such limited testing, it’s just better to assume that you have it and isolate,” Swaminathan said.

However, if someone has severe symptoms — such as shortness of breath — they should call first responders and let them know.

“We have things we can do to support your breathing but short of that there’s not much … keeping people out of the hospital is very important,” Swaminathan said.

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness and dry cough, according to the World Health Organization, which also says that some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea.

“Don’t go to the emergency department [unless absolutely necessary] because if you don’t have it, you’re going to get it there, and if you do have it, you’re going to give it to other people,” he said.

Need to see a doctor?

Many medical providers, including Atlantic Health System, offer virtual visits. Members of the public may also visit the New Jersey’s COVID-19 symptom checker to find the proper course of action.

Last week Paterson Fire Chief Brian McDermott advised residents that if they needed an ambulance, EMTs would attempt to distance themselves as much as possible from the patient.

On Wednesday Passaic County opened a drive-thru A COVID-19 testing facility on the campus of William Paterson University, however, a prescription is needed for testing. 

No proven treatments

“We have no proven treatments at this point,” Swaminathan said. “We have a lot of hypothetical ideas, but nothing that works at this point.”

The CDC advises the following: “At present clinical management includes infection prevention and control measures and supportive care, including supplementary oxygen and mechanical ventilatory support when indicated.”

While Swaminathan said that some patients in intensive care have been given the combination chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, those treatments can have toxic side effects.

“There are patients in the ICU where the doctors are using these as last-ditch efforts, but that’s not for the general public. I would strongly advise against these,” Swaminathan said.

The emergency doctor’s advice comes with a series of social distancing measures mandated both locally and statewide to mitigate the virus’ spread. However, for it to work, he said, everyone must participate.

“It takes two weeks of an intervention before you see the effects, and we’re just now over a week in,” Swaminathan said.

As for the groceries? Buy them online, he said.

“[Social distancing] really has to be for everyone for it to work,” Swaminathan said. “I know there are websites for if you have to order groceries.” If you have to be at a grocery store, he added, ensure that there is space between you and other people.

One way to help

Members of the public can help, he said, by donating personal protective equipment, which there is severe shortage of at hospitals.

Click here to learn more about donating personal protective equipment, including a list of sites accepting donations in New Jersey. Atlantic Health System is among those with hospitals in short supply. Click here to learn more about what Atlantic Health is accepting.

The call for such equipment comes just as a surge of COVID-19 cases presents itself, with many more anticipated.

“We are just starting in New Jersey to hit the surge,” Swaminathan said. “We lag slightly behind New York, where we’re seeing the hospitals very overwhelmed.”