By Bart Anderson, PA-C
Grover C. Dils Medical Center
First I want to say to everyone who has suffered due to this disease, whether it be from actually getting the disease, losing a loved one, having to stay home from work or losing employment, having to adjust schedules for daycare, homeschooling, etc. I want to say to you I am so sorry this has happened to us, and hope that we can get through it soon. The loss of life, jobs, education, and that its effect on mental health have been tragic. Even when this disease is no longer a public health risk, its effects on Society will most likely be felt for decades.
I was asked to share my opinions and what I think about this disease especially as it relates to our small community here in Lincoln County. People in the medical field, especially those of us who were dealing with patients directly, are reading several articles and studies a day as more and more information comes out about this disease. In the beginning we did not know how infectious this disease was, especially how it was spread, and how to treat it. Our initial forms of treatment were not very successful, but we were doing our best.
As many of you know the mortality rate for this disease is down significantly from earlier in the year. There are several reasons for this; we are testing younger populations and more asymptomatic people are getting tested so we’re finding more of the disease. We are identifying the disease faster and people are being treated sooner and we have better treatments available. Social distancing, hygiene, and masking cuts down on the amount of infectious particles that get into our respiratory tract, and those that have less exposure have been found to have less symptoms. Recent studies have also found that approximately 10 percent of the U.S. population has had this coronavirus, and they are less likely to pass it on the others so we are starting to develop a herd immunity. I really do believe, and evidence backs this up, that there will be an endpoint. We will not have to wear masks and social distance forever. Reinfection has been called “exceedingly rare” and observational studies have shown that most people that do get re-infected have little to no symptoms.
So what would my advice be? One thing you can do is identify how at risk you are for a serious infection. People with diabetes, obesity or high blood pressure on average have a more serious infection. Older people and especially people with existing lung problems also have a harder time. If you are in one of these populations you will want to take extra precautions in limiting your chance of getting COVID-19.
What are the big things to watch out for? Studies found that COVID-19 can last up to nine hours on the skin, and 17 hours on hard surfaces like stainless steel. Heat and light and disinfectants will kill it faster-that is why washing your hands often is a big deal. The amount of virus particles you were exposed to, also called the Dose Response Effect, also seem to make a difference. That is why wearing masks when you cannot socially distance can help you from getting a severe infection. It’s true that virus particles do float in the air for quite a while, so if you are outside or in a well ventilated space your chance of exposure is really limited. A recent study showed on a commercial airliner where they move the air through quite often, is not nearly as bad as being in the same room with an infected person where there is not any airflow.
The biggest way that you are going to contract this disease is by close contact with someone who has COVID-19. Infectious particles get in our mouth, nose, and eyes and it is incredibly difficult to keep from catching this if your significant other also has it. So, if you or your significant other has it we recommend you follow the quarantine guidelines issued by the hospital. Our Facebook page, Grover C. Dils Medical Center, has all this information, plus advice on how to stay healthy.
I know there are a lot of different opinions about this disease and how to prevent it, and how to treat it, and many times it is very difficult to know who to believe. One thing I have found is when you read an article about this disease read the entire thing, not just the headline. If there are points you wonder about then research those and see what other studies or scientific articles say. Many people fall into a pattern of what is called Research Bias and they only pick and choose the studies or information that fit their opinion. Everyone does this to some extent. I believe that we can keep things open, and limit our risk of exposure with masking, personal hygiene, and social distancing. Shutting everything down has had a devastating effect.
Lastly, I want you to know that everyone here in the hospital from the nursing staff, administration, dietary, housekeeping, maintenance, office staff, and the providers, are all trying our best to keep our patients and the public safe. It is hard to describe the amount of stress that we feel on a daily basis as we deal with this pandemic, and ask all of you to continue to be patient and supportive. I cannot tell you how many people have come up to me and expressed their gratitude for what we do. Thank you all so, so much.
Stay Open, Stay Safe.