Hospital Corner – August, 2021
No shoes. No shirt. No service! Growing up in a beach town in the 1970s, I saw that sign in many a storefront window. Fortunately for kids like me it took minimal effort to comply: flip flops, Hang Ten t-shirt and swim trunks. At 19, with motorcycle endorsement on my driver’s license, I wore a helmet per state law. My oldest child was born in 1982, and hospital checked my car to ensure I had an approved infant car seat before taking her home. Seat belts became mandatory in all states by the 1990s. Public schools have enforced child vaccination requirements for as long as I can remember; in fact, I clearly recall standing in a long line with other second graders getting our polio, small pox and other shots at school. That was 1966! Americans have long accepted the need for public safety and health—to protect themselves and, just as important, others. They put the good of their community and country first.
Why the lengthy trip down memory lane? Somehow rational science, extensive research and decades of supporting data no longer have the power they once did. Perhaps we forgot or don’t know the devastation caused by polio or small pox long ago, how much seat belts and car seats have made driving safer over the past 50 years, or the need for stop signs and speed limits. Freedom isn’t infringed by following rules and expectations that keep us safe. Wearing a mask to prevent spreading germs to the frail and elderly is no more a restriction on your freedom than stopping at a red light. You could ignore that light and speed through an intersection, but why would you—just as why would you put others at risk by not wearing a mask and remaining unvaccinated. The delta variant is thriving now in Mineral County because the majority of adults have yet to get a shot and refuse to wear a mask in crowded public areas. Simple as that.
Has there been plenty of confusion and mixed messaging about mask wearing and vaccine effectiveness over the past year? You bet—and that’s to be expected. Let me explain. Think back to high school, probably freshman or sophomore year. In biology or chemistry class, you were introduced to a concept known as the scientific method (Google for a refresher). Most scientific discovery/invention since an apple (supposedly) fell on Newton’s head involves this process. Essentially, you observe an event, ask questions, make educated guesses and predictions, then test to determine validity. That’s exactly what virologists, epidemiologists and doctors have been doing for nearly two years now. As infection data are collected, they revise their predictions and continually retest to find best course of action. COVID-19 and its variants arrived with little warning so researchers made guesses early on and then fine-tuned public health recommendations as new data appeared. Remember: time was of the essence so faulty assumptions were bound to be made but most were quickly corrected. Even Newton goofed plenty before publishing his Law of Gravitation.
As you may have heard, the hospital and nursing home continue to be locked down, meaning no visitors (not even to accompany a patient to ER) and no outside activities for nursing home residents. More than a dozen staff, patients and residents have tested positive—a few with serious COVID symptoms so we are doing all we can to prevent further infection. Staff is now required to wear N95 masks and eye protection while at work; of course, all outpatients in clinic and hospital must wear a mask—that won’t change anytime soon. Again, this is to protect those around you as much as keeping you healthy. Want all this to change? See paragraph #2 above. Be well everyone; we will get through this (eventually).
Hugh Qualls, Administrator