As the director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center in Galloway Township, Dr. Manish Trivedi is someone who has been studying and treating infectious diseases for more than a decade.
And even Trivedi admits the size and score of the COVID-19 pandemic was more than any infectious disease expert could have expected to see in their lifetime.
“When you’re a kid just studying in this field, you’re trying to prepare for some of these unpredictable moments, but nothing to this kind of degree,” he said. “You read about pandemics, but you never think it’s going to touch the world with the speed at which this virus traveled.”
The speed at which COVID-19 grew is perhaps only matched by the response to it. The first of many vaccines was introduced earlier this month.
And, while Trivedi trumpets the vaccine, he worries that the timeline will give a false sense of security.
This is not a movie, he said. This pandemic is not something that will go away as quickly as it came. New Jerseyans should celebrate the arrival of vaccines, but they should not assume everything will quickly go back to how it was before the pandemic, Trivedi said.
“This vaccine isn’t a silver bullet that’s going to eradicate the virus itself,” he said. “I think it’s another tool that we can use as the community in order to prevent the spread, along with wearing a mask and maintaining that physical distance and hand hygiene.
“Moving forward, I anticipate the next several weeks to be still very dark. With the second surge hitting in the holiday season, with New Year’s around the corner, we’re still going to have a lot of efforts that need to be made.”
Trivedi called the deployment of the vaccine “a torch we needed to get through some dark days.”
But, at the same time, he cautioned against an overconfidence. The vaccine, which is being given first to health care workers and seniors, likely will start reaching the general public in the spring.
Simply put, Trivedi said, people should not feel invincible.
“That can be a big detriment to people around you, because you exude that and it gives people a false sense of security,” he said.
The vaccine, Trivedi said, should not change habits.
“I don’t think anything changes,” he said. “I think tomorrow, we all still do the same things. We all wear the masks when we’re around each other. We all maintain that physical distance. It’s important to still maintain those basic principles that have gotten us this far through this pandemic.
“Being confident is certainly not the appropriate way to approach it.”
The warning goes out for the holiday season, when — despite pleading from health officials — many are expected to interact with a large circle of family and friends. As they did over Thanksgiving, which brought more cases.
“We see a lot of people especially thinking it’s not going to happen to them, that their inner circle is very tight,” Trivedi said. “But it really is a sneaky virus. And it really is a very contagious thing. So, take your precautions, and to be on guard at all times is really important.”
No matter how hard that may be to do, he said.
“It really boils down to people wanting to return to that normalcy and being around family and friends,” he said. “And, all it really takes is one person and it can certainly spread very quickly amongst a group. That’s the case when you are around people that aren’t in your immediate core.
“You need to be very cautious. And there’s really no embarrassment to wear a mask in those circumstances. It’s (something) you should wear proudly as a way of showing your affection to your family and loved ones.”