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OPINION

What keeps a doctor awake at night?

Staff reports
The Chronicle Express

There is no dearth of reasons that a doctor can be haunted by insomnia. At any given time, there are usually a few of our patients who are going through a tough time—an illness, a surgery, or an unexpected hospitalization. I share the concerns of their family and friends as their physician. There is always a feeling of doubt with each “flu season,” never knowing for sure how severe the flu virus will be, how good the “flu shot” will be, and how many will choose to be immunized.

Dr. Wayne Strouse

This year, all bets are off. COVID has completely usurped the “worry function.” And there is still so much we don’t know! What determines who gets sick and how severely they become ill? Do kids transmit the virus a little, or a lot? If children have no symptoms, or very mild symptoms, can they still give it to their grandparents, and if so, how readily? Can we get a safe, effective vaccine, and make enough doses, and distribute it quickly and to the highest risk people first (if there are enough shots)? Can you get the coronavirus more than once? What meaning does the antibody test have? Will we find an oral medicine (or even a shot) that could kill the virus (like penicillin kills Strep)? All of these questions are only partially answered at best at the present time.

And some of what we do know isn’t being used. We know that social distancing (the 6-foot rule) works, but some are not doing this. We know that masks protect others, but some insist it is an issue of “Constitutional Rights” and not public health, or even respect for others. This further increases the risk for spread, especially during this time of the year, when we have people coming to our area from Southern “Hot Spots”, and tourists from outside N.Y.

Finally, there are those who are sick who are not getting tested. This causes two issues. First, it suppresses the number of cases reported to Public Health, for the number of known “active” cases, and gives people a false sense of security. “Since we have so few (reported) cases in Yates County, and hardly any active cases, we don’t have to worry about COVID here,” they say. The reality, of course, is that we may have double or triple the number of cases, and yes, we should be careful in Yates County. It would also show the true “positivity rate” which is a better statistic as to how much COVID is “out there” in Yates County. Knowing that information would help us make other decisions to keep our community safe. 

Secondly, by not getting tested, we can’t trace and isolate the virus. We don’t know who may be spreading the virus around, or who should stay at home and not go to gatherings of family, friends, and community activities. It also means that some people who are isolating may not have the virus, and thus may not need to isolate.

Again, right now, our numbers are good, but they may misrepresent the actual COVID picture. The absolutely good news is that we have no recent deaths and currently no hospitalizations. Those numbers are real and are reassuring. We definitely want to keep things that way. 

So…

  1. Please wear a mask—especially when inside, or when you can’t socially distance.
  2. Please socially distance whenever possible—inside AND outside.
  3. If you’ve been exposed, or feel ill, or just want to know for sure, please get tested.
  4. Wash your hands—a lot, and try not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  5. Be Careful Out There!