OPINION

There’s Something Happening Here...

Staff reports
The Chronicle Express

There’s Something Happening Here... a.k.a “For What It’s Worth”(with apologies to Buffalo Springfield)

There’s something happening here.

What it is-is all too clear.

There’s a man talking disease over there, 

Telling me, I’ve got to beware.

It’s time we stopped, people, look around,

Everyone needs to see what’s going down...

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, famous for large family gatherings, when families unite from far away, it is truly tragic that we also are in the midst of the worst part of the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, what we do in the next few days could make the difference between making it through the holidays without overwhelming our healthcare system, or overwhelming the system to the point where we are forced to ration care (and doctors may have to make the impossible decision regarding who receives care; who lives or dies).

Dr. Wayne Strouse

The bottom line is that there are only so many hospital beds, and so many nurses and doctors. If the surge we are seeing elsewhere in this country arrives in our area, we will overwhelm our capacity to treat it. Our local hospital has about 12 beds and no ICU beds. We have to hope there are beds at Geneva General or FF Thompson Hospital (or Strong Memorial or Rochester General Hospital). But unlike a hurricane or tornado, which affects one area, COVID is a hurricane everywhere at once. We can’t count on help from “somewhere else”. We have to do this ourselves, meaning we have to prevent these cases from happening in the first place.

And we can do it! We have a very generous and caring community! When my house burned down, many people stepped forward to offer help. We live in a place of community barn raisings, chicken barbecue dinners to raise money for our neighbors who have been stricken with illness or who need an operation, even auctions and missions to help poor people in foreign countries. We have volunteer firefighters, the Living Well, Millie’s Pantry, the Yates County Humane Society (because we help our animals, too), and the Christmas and School Backpack programs. 

Social distancing, wearing a mask, no large gatherings for Thanksgiving—this should be child’s play for us! Easy-peasy (as my surgeon once said before an operation). We can definitely do this!

My office has received a number of calls over the past few weeks. People called, concerned over what to do because they had been near someone who tested positive. Our first question, “Were you both wearing a mask?” The answer, usually after a bit of a pause, is inevitably, “Uh, no”. If you prepare ahead, you won’t have to worry so much later.

Knowing that I am a doctor, you might not be terribly surprised to learn that I have been exposed to COVID. But, we were both masked and COVID did not spread to me. A little precaution goes a long way. My encounter occurred outside of my office—in a place I would not have expected to be exposed. That’s why I am prepared all the time—I wear a mask; I have hand sanitizer in my car. You can do this, too.

Remember what COVID “likes”: a small contained area, with little ventilation, for a period of time (15 minutes or more), in close proximity (6 feet or less, but it can travel further), where it is loud (lots of people talking or loud music in the background, so people have to speak loudly to be heard), no masks, and of course, someone in the room with COVID (who likely doesn’t know it). Sounds a lot like Thanksgiving dinner, doesn’t it?

This Thanksgiving, like most of 2020, is the year that wasn’t normal. We’ll talk on the phone, we’ll Facetime, or Skype, or Zoom. But we won’t be there. Because it’s just not safe. We will be doing our part to keep the health care system from imploding, and maybe save a few thousand lives, not to mention tens of thousands of hospitalizations across the country. I implore you to do your part. We’ve got this!

Give thanks, not COVID! Have a SAFE, and healthy Thanksgiving.