Coronavirus update for the Crown Heights community, from the Gedaliah Society and Dr. Eli Rosen: Regarding reinfections, outbreaks in summer camps, Bochurim from out of town attending Yeshiva in Crown Heights.
The question of reinfection (whether an individual who had COVID can contract the illness again if exposed to an infectious person) is still being closely studied in medical circles. Most agree that even though there have been cases, this is not a widespread phenomenon at this time, and at least 4 months from the outbreak, relatively very few proven cases of reinfection exist.
In our community, although we strongly suspect we had at least one case, as time goes on we have not seen multiple cases as would be expected if this were a common scenario. We hope and are optimistic that for the time being reinfection will not become an increasingly widespread phenomenon, even as antibody levels continue to wane. This optimism is borne of our observations on the ground and the increasing study of aspects of the immune system not yet easily measurable. We continue to monitor this critically important issue here and elsewhere, and are working closely with experts in the field of virology.
Experience to date in regard to sleep away summer camps for the most part suggests that in many of the camps (to varying degrees, depending on the makeup of the campers) there was a self-contained outbreak of the virus early on in the season that affected campers only minimally. The blessing has been that as of now everyone has had a regenerative/healthy summer. It should continue!
The following graph is of those new cases in Crown Heights (known to us.) We thank everybody for their input, and urge community members to continue reporting any new cases (New COVID Registry). Only with this kind of knowledge can we make informed decisions.
(The dates have been shifted minimally to protect anonymity)
As can be seen above, we continue to have sporadic new cases in our community, with roughly 2-3 cases a week for the past few weeks. Many of these cases are associated with hotspot state travel. It would appear that for the foreseeable future new cases may appear on a fairly regular basis.
The good news is that despite these sporadic cases, Boruch HaShem we have not seen any secondary cases or community spread from these infections into that segment of the population that remains at risk. We think this may be due to the degree of collective immunity that presumably exists within our community. By analogy: When most matches are wet, the few dry ones are scattered so far and wide that a fire cannot readily spread among them.
We have to operate on the assumption that despite our best intentions we will continue to have sporadic cases in our community. Therefore, in order to continue to protect our community, the proper thing would be to preserve the degree of collective immunity that currently exists. If we were to have a large influx of people into Crown Heights who have never contracted the virus and who remain susceptible, we would be concerned that there would now be enough dry matches around that if a match somewhere catches fire, it would be able to spread, G-d forbid reaching those who remain at high risk. This is particularly relevant and worrisome in an environment like 770 for obvious reasons.
This brings us to the pressing question of how we as a community should move forward in the next month or two, when we typically expect a large number of visitors in our community, specifically for Yeshiva or other such programs, and for Tishrei.
There have been extensive discussions between medical professionals, Rabbonim, the mosdos, and other askanim. Obviously any solution will present problems for some and have imperfections, nevertheless, in order to protect the lives of those vulnerable residents of the schuna, we are prescribing the following precautions (of course in addition to any applicable local health mandates). We earnestly request that a coalition of Rabbonim, Mashpi’im, principles and those who are responsible for the institutions ensure that appropriate attention is given to the matter.
For those coming to Crown Heights from out of town this Elul, to attend Yeshiva or other educational programs:
- Those with proof of having had the virus may come to Crown Heights and join a yeshiva or other education program.
- Documentation of a positive viral test over 10 days prior to arrival, or having positive antibodies, suffices for proof.
- For those without proof of having had the virus, an alternate and more problematic solution would be for the mosdos to create an off-site quarantine option; this would be a “capsule”, where the group of students who have not had the virus can spend several weeks learning together at a site away from Crown Heights, before they can join their peers here. Obviously these students may contract COVID while in quarantine, and one would be relying on the very favorable outcomes experienced in similar scenarios at the sleepaway camps so far. The danger in our estimation would be far less than allowing 770 to serve as the “capsule”. It goes without saying that those with any underlying health conditions would not have this option available.
- Students who have not had the virus should not be quarantining locally in Crown Heights.
*Precisely defining what constitutes “out of town” for these purposes, as well as the time course for which those criteria are relevant, is something we will be working on with the various mosdos IYH over the next few days.
*As we have all seen so frequently, this is a rapidly evolving situation which may change in the coming weeks. These guidelines are current as of today and will be updated if necessary.
For those wishing to visit for Tishrei:
- We implore those who wish to visit for Tishrei to consider the above discussion and the safety of the Crown Heights community.
- We ask that only those who have already had the virus, as per the criteria above, visit Crown Heights during the month of Tishrei.
-The Gedaliah Society, in conjunction with Dr. Rosen