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Medical Experts Cautiously Optimistic With COVID-19 Vaccine Trial Underway

NEW JERSEY (CBSNewYork) - There's concern over a new coronavirus cluster in New Jersey, where at least three dozen lifeguards tested positive. Meanwhile, the nation's largest trial for a COVID-19 vaccine took another big step Monday, CBS2's Jessica Layton reported.

Moderna began its final phase of testing an experimental coronavirus vaccine with 30,000 volunteers Monday.

A news anchor in Savannah, GA got the very first dose.

"I got tired of sitting here worried that I can't do anymore than wear a mask and try to stay away from people," Dawn Baker.

Neither she nor medical staff know if she's among the 15,000 getting the vaccine, or the other half getting the placebo.

There's a lot of hope riding on the vaccine.


"With the early promising results, we could be a little bit optimistic," said one doctor.

The cautious optimism comes as an increase in COVID-19 clusters pop-up in the Tri-State.

Dozens of lifeguards down the Jersey Shore, for example, were exposed.

"We had very few cases and I think have more now then we had all winter," said Kathy Travinsky.

The Long Beach Island health department said 36 lifeguards, so far, tested positive - 18 from Surf City, 18 from Harvey Cedars.

MORE: Dozens Of Jersey Shore Lifeguards Test Positive For COVID-19 After Social Gatherings

The infection apparently spread while the lifeguards, who are now off-duty and isolated, got together in a social setting earlier this month.

There are now 65 positive cases to come out of a party thrown in Middletown, NJ.

Gov. Phil Murphy couldn't help but shake his head at a big house party in Jackson, NJ.

"Cops spent nearly five hours breaking up a party of over 700 people. C'mon folks," said Murphy.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted Monday they he is "appalled" after seeing videos of a concert in Southampton over the weekend that show, what he called, "egregious social distancing violations."

"We haven't brought the number of cases to zero and until that happens, clusters will occur," said Dr. Ronald Nahass, an infectious disease physician.

Dr. Nahass said these flare-ups are to be expected, but should not be taken lightly.

RELATED STORY: Max Minute: CBS News Poll Says 70% Of Americans Would Wait To Get COVID-19 Vaccine, Or Wouldn't Get One At All

"How do you stop a cluster from becoming a full blown outbreak?" asked Layton.

"Identify the cluster... identify other contacts and then limit further exposure," he said.

Nahass said in order for the system to work, contact tracers need total cooperation.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

It could be our best shot at controlling the crisis - until there's a trusted vaccine.

"It's the first of several vaccines that are going to be coming along quite quickly," said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institute of Health.

It will still take about six months to figure out if Moderna's vaccine worked on the patients in the trial.

But, a new CBS poll found only 30 percent of people would get the vaccine as soon as it's available.

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