County officials mark the first year of COVID vaccines

Health Hub will have new hours in the new year

Dec. 15 marked one year since the first doses of the COVID vaccine were administered, and Camden County officials commemorated that with a one-day clinic at the Health Hub in Blackwood.

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Camden County Commissioner Louis Cappelli Jr. reflected on the year and provided some statistics.

“Thinking back to one year ago, it seems like we were in a completely different world,” Cappelli said. “We were just administering the very first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and didn’t know what the future would hold.

“But thanks to the remarkable collaborative work that elected officials, health-care professionals and residents did over the past year, we’ve been able to get to where we are now, with more than 325,000 people in the county fully vaccinated and counting,” he added.

The commissioner also noted that since the pandemic began, there have been more than 271 million cases worldwide, 50 million in the U.S. and close to 65,000 in Camden County. COVID deaths total 5.32 million worldwide, 800,000 in the U.S., 28,000 in New Jersey, and close to 13,000 in Camden County. 

“We’ll probably surpass 14,000 this week,” Cappelli acknowledged. “ … (In Camden County), we’re close to 70 percent vaccinated. We need to get higher. So we’re urging all of you, especially as the weather gets colder, with the new variant and holidays approaching, please get vaccinated (and) get the booster if you have not already done so.”

Cappelli was joined by Senior Vice President Louis Bezich, of Cooper University Health Care; Camden County College President Donald Borden; county health officer Dr. Paschal Nwako; and Rutgers-Camden School of Nursing Associate Dean Dr. Kevin Emmons. 

They acknowledged the emotional and mental fatigue that comes with COVID and continue to urge vaccination.

“If anyone understands the exhaustion of COVID-19, it’s our health-care providers,” Emmons noted. “It’s our nurses and physicians and pharmacists that are out every day, long hours, weekends, to ensure that we have appropriate health care and acute care, (and) public health in community settings. 

“We feel the pain and we understand that there’s still fear and misunderstanding,” he added.

Camden County College President Donald Borden reflected on what it took to keep the operation running.

Being here every day, I see the people who work at this site,” Borden said. “They’re out here in all kinds of weather, sacrificing time so that you all can be protected and safe.”

Cappelli said the daily case average has risen in the past month to 212 cases a day, and Bezich reported that at Cooper, there are about 54 COVID patients, some who are positive and others awaiting tests.

“There are still people dying,” Bezich warned. “The numbers are down from before, but there are still people dying, which shouldn’t have to happen.”

In the new year, the Health Hub will expand hours and increase testing. Starting Jan. 4, it will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday; from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday.  

”It’s time to wake up, because the only way to stop the spread of this virus is if we increase the number of people who have the vaccine,” Cappelli urged. “We have to do that to get where we need to be.”

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