HACKENSACK, N.J. — For the physicians and nurses working the front lines at Hackensack University Medical Center during the coronavirus pandemic, April 28 marked a milestone victory in their epic battle against the infamous widespread killer virus.

Early this afternoon, on perhaps the nicest day of the year under sunny blue skies, Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC) celebrated the discharge of its 1,000 coronavirus patient — surprisingly enough, a doctor. To the cheers and claps of hospital staff, which followed a presentation from the HUMC Color Guard and EMS Honor Guard, HUMC’s very own Dr. Karan Omidvari, of New York City, was wheeled out from his hospital room where he was greeted by his family who took him home after a brief stint for treatment and recovery. 

“Throughout our network, we have expanded our capacity to safely and effectively care for COVID-19 patients by providing them with access to the latest clinical trials and treatment options,” said Robert C. Garrett, CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health in a press release following the day’s event. “Although the fight against COVID-19 is not yet over, achieving these milestones provides a much-needed dose of hope and optimism to members of our staff, as well as to residents of the communities we serve.”

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Dr. Omidvari serves as a critical care intensivist at the Prospect Avenue hospital. The father of two tested positive for the potentially deadly, highly contagious virus earlier this month at the Emergency Department after presenting with symptoms of shortness of breath, fever and fatigue. His condition required a two-time intubation during which he received convalescent plasma therapy — one of the latest in promising treatments for COVID-19. The process involves infusing the patient with blood plasma from a recovered COVID-19 patient who donated the sample, which contains high levels of antibodies. The plasma works to aid in the support of the immune system as it attacks the virus. Omidvari was also treated with a medication through his participation in two clinical trials.  

New Jersey is reported the fourth state in the country that is hardest hit by the coronavirus during the current pandemic after Florida, California and New York, the so-called “epicenter” for coronavirus. Hackensack University Medical Center, which is the flagship location of Hackensack Meridian Health’s 17-hospital network, is at the forefront of treating the virus. It has reportedly the first hospital in the Garden State that treated the first case of coronavirus, a 30-something Fort Lee man, on March 4, and the hospital with the largest number of discharged patients to date. 

While 1,000 patients in almost two months is a feat to be proud of, hospital executives say they should not lose sight of the ongoing commitment of physicians and nurses on the front lines of the current pandemic.

“Although this event is certainly an important recognition of Dr. Omidvari’s successful recovery, it is also a time to recognize the ongoing commitment and dedication of our team members who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mark D. Sparta, President and Chief Hospital Executive at Hackensack University Medical Center and Executive Vice President of Population Health at Hackensack Meridian Health. “The celebration of Dr. Omidvari’s discharge is evidence that our hospital and team members remain prepared to offer the best available COVID-19 care to members of our community.”

Since March, staff at the Hackensack hospital underwent thorough research to develop a slew of innovative treatments to fight the disease, the cases of which have skyrocketed in the last two months. Apart from the aforementioned blood plasma which physicians collected from donors who recovered from COVID-19 to help aid in the fight in sick patients, doctors part of the Hackensack Meridian Health Center for Discovery and Innovation, also developed a rapid-response coronavirus test which significantly reduced the time it took to obtain results from days to hours. In addition, doctors obtained access to the ID NOW Diagnostic Tool by Abbott Laboratories, a point-of-care COVID-19 diagnostic test that uses molecular technology to deliver positive results in a mere five minutes, and negative results in 13. 

 In a press conference last week in Trenton, Governor Phil Murphy said the COVID-19 curve was “flattening” thanks to the social distancing practices put in place by the Centers for Disease Control, and that the number of hospital discharges surpassed the number of admissions, which he called “an important measure of progress” in the ongoing war against COVID-19.  

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, Hackensack Meridian Health researchers have been pursuing innovative approaches to COVID-19 care,” said Ihor Sawczuk, M.D., regional president of Hackensack Meridian Health's Northern Market and the chief research officer of the network. “Backed by the full support of our network, our researchers and clinical teams remain optimistic about future advancements in the treatment of COVID-19 and are proud of how much has been accomplished in such a short amount of time.”