BOSTON – As the hospital epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center, Dr. Shira Doron’s day-to-day work focuses on the policies, procedures and protocols that prevent transmission of COVID-19 within the Boston-based hospital.
Doron, who is originally from Israel, said that residents of the state need to vigilant about preventing the spread of the coronavious. “It is the time, if there was ever a time, to be really, really serious about taking the precautionary measures. There is so much COVID out there … so many more kids are infected now … there’s been so much spread in the community.”
One recent confidence-builder for many people are the vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna, which are being rolled out across the country, including in Massachusetts. Yet the national rollout has been uneven. Massachusetts was ranked last in New England and among the middle states in the country as of this past weekend.
Citing the issues of personnel, capacity and logistics, Doron said, “It’s a combination of do you have vaccine clinics up and running and are you able to vaccinate fast enough.”
She added that the situation is “not just different by state, but by location,” and that while Tufts Medical Center is allowed to vaccinate its staff, “many communities out there in the state have nowhere to get the vaccine, they are not affiliated with a hospital.”
A new development on the COVID-19 front is the discovery of new strains of the coronavirus, including in the United Kingdom and South Africa. When Doron spoke with the Jewish Journal last Friday, Jan. 15, the U.K. strain had been found in Connecticut by then; as of that weekend, it had also been found in Massachusetts.
“This is what we expected,” she said in an email regarding the news. “It underscores the importance of following all of the preventative measures. We hope the vaccine rollout will continue to pick up speed.”
For Doron, the rollout is “problematic right now,” she said. “There are a couple of issues. The entire responsibility has been on the states. [The states] have their own different approaches. Often they are not supported to do what they need to do.
“The top priority is to support states in the vaccine rollout with the resources they need to step it up, and in thinking about the future, try to vaccinate while trying to take care of a massive surge in sick patients.”
Born in Jerusalem, Doron described her home country of Israel favorably when it comes to its vaccine rollout. She came to the U.S. as a child so her parents could attend American universities.
Doron also discussed Israel’s role as a world leader in vaccintating its population against the coronavirus. “It’s awesome,” she said. “They’re really showing us how it’s done.” Those vaccinated in Israel include several of Doron’s relatives. She estimated that Israel has vaccinated about a quarter of its population and about 60 percent of people 60 years old and up.
However, she noted, “At the same time, they had their own surges in cases, their own lockdowns, their own pandemic fatigue. I see pictures and videos from Israel with lots of maskless people. They’ve got their challenges as well.”
She praised people in Massachusetts for an “incredibly high” level of mask-wearing outside and for “very, very high compliance” overall with COVID-19 policies. Yet, she added, “we’re seeing a surge in cases.”
“It’s a harder thing for everyone,” Doron said. “In the case of Massachusetts, we’re trying to do the right thing.” She noted that “social interactions are really important” for some people, and there’s a challenge in staying away from friends and family for a long time. She also mentioned that the winter can prompt more indoor gatherings, “resulting in big transmission events.”
During the holiday season, Doron urged listeners to follow COVID-19 protocols in “I’ll Stay Home for Christmas,” a twist on the hit song that has gotten tens of thousands of views, including 40,000 on the Tufts Medical Center website. “I’m pretty happy with the impact,” Doron said. “I’ve gotten only positive responses from people who’ve had a chance to react.”
Despite the current grim numbers, she asked people to hold on a little bit longer until things get better.
This means doing “whatever it takes, be cautious, [follow] every sort of COVID rules,” she said, “especially knowing there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”