What will Covid look like in 2021?
Many of us have been happy to embrace the new year, and to see 2020 in the rear view mirror. But of course, Covid doesn't respect years, just like it doesn't respect borders. Like it or not, we will still be dealing with Covid in 2021. Where are we now, and where can we expect to be six months from now?
We are not on the best of terms with Covid right now. The combination of cold weather, holiday gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and people just tired of having to think about and deal with Covid have come together to push Covid into yet another surge.
The news in Yates County is mixed. We, too, have had a surge, but it is not as severe as in some places. As I write this column, Yates County has 75 active cases, and 280 people in quarantine. Deaths have increased nearly 50% in the past four weeks, after months of no one dying from Covid in our county. After months of no one with Covid in the hospital, we've been running three to six people hospitalized by Covid. Remember, we only have 12 beds in this county, and no ICU beds. If you are hit hard by Covid, you will be hospitalized elsewhere. New York State numbers are going up rapidly, and the Finger Lakes region is New York State's "hot spot" (mainly due to Monroe County).
The good news (relatively) is that Yates County has the best numbers in the Finger Lakes region. But, don't get too comfortable, the worst is still yet to come. January (and possibly February) is expected to be the worst month yet, because of the confluence of the situations I've described above. The possibility of further shutdowns still looms over the horizon. We still need to be smart about this -- it is not time to let your guard down.
People in Arizona and California (especially in the Los Angeles area) are currently on the cusp of their medical systems being overwhelmed. There are discussions about having to ration care, because there just aren't enough nurses and doctors to care for the tsunami wave of patients needing admission. Wherever all the hospitals are full, very difficult choices must be made -- literally life and death choices. Who gets admitted? Who gets a ventilator (breathing machine)? In some cases, who gets oxygen? And what happens to the person with a heart attack who we can save -- if only we had an ICU bed? These are excruciating decisions -- no one should ever be put in a position where they must decide between two impossible choices.
This could happen in our community. But we can also prevent this from happening -- by doing the right thing. I implore you, do not force any of our local physicians to make such a gut-wrenching, horrible decision.
Wear your mask, socially distance, and don't gather in groups, especially if you are inside (which is just about mandatory in January and February around here). The price is just too high. We all need to be a part of this.
But what about the vaccine? That was supposed to bail us out of this mess! The vaccine is definitely the light at the end of the pandemic. The magnificent work of some very talented scientists has shown what can be done when we put our minds (and funding) toward scientific research. Having looked over the data, I'll be getting my vaccine shortly. I strongly advise you to do the same when the opportunity arises. We need to get 70-80% of our community vaccinated to allow everything to return to normal again. R
emember, though, that the vaccine requires two doses, three to four weeks apart. Full immunity doesn't occur until two weeks after the second dose. We have a ways to go to get 70 to 80% of the population to that point. Until then, I'm afraid it's still masks and social distancing, to keep us alive and healthy until there is enough vaccine.
Keep doing the right thing, and stay safe.
Dr. Wayne S. Strouse, M.D., is a family doctor in Penn Yan.