In the update last week, I noted that my family was self-sequestering due to one of my daughters showing COVID-like symptoms. After several days of very high fever and a negative COVID test, I am happy to say that all is well at home. The experience reminded me of an important lesson: the same steps that we are taking for COVID prevention (washing hands, social distancing, covering coughs, etc.) apply to other infectious diseases as well. When my daughter received a negative COVID-test result and wanted to roam freely, I lovingly responded, “you may not have COVID, but you have something, and I don’t want to catch it” because by that time, my wife was showing signs as well.
While our experience with COVID has been remarkably positive in Hancock County, it is important to remember that the disease is not gone and there are simple steps we can take to help prevent transmission of it. In the event that a person gets the disease, it is likely they will have a full recovery with a limited need for substantial medical care if they are young and healthy. For older individuals, and those with underlying health conditions, the situation is much more dire as the complications from the disease can be extensive. It is those individuals that we must protect until a vaccine has been developed and widely distributed.
At Hancock Health, we have built-in precautions including limiting access to the main hospital to just two doors (main entrance and emergency room entrance) and placing permanent screening personnel at those locations. We have also added resources to our environmental services department with “sanitation specialists” whose job is to roam the public areas of our buildings cleaning surfaces that are routinely touched (door handles, handrails, etc.). We have also canceled hospital-sponsored events and classes for the remainder of the year and are limiting the size of meetings in our buildings to practice social distancing. Finally, we continue to wear masks in our buildings and are in the process of donating tens of thousands of masks to 150 partner organizations across the county to provide the same protection to others.
Also of note is that we realize the importance of having loved ones participate in our patients’ care and we have relaxed our visitation policy to ensure all patients may have a care partner with them when accessing our services. These companions will need to be screened, wear masks, wash hands often, etc., but there is no longer the fear of being alone during a stressful time. The bottom line is that it is safe for patients and their companions to utilize the services at Hancock Health.
As a final note, it is up to each of us to balance the risks and the benefits of any particular activity given the best information available. Because of my wife’s father, who is 87 years old and lives with us, we will be taking more precautions than a young, healthy family might. I encourage everyone to live their lives as normally as possible while taking simple precautions to protect themselves and their loved ones from contracting, and possibly passing along, COVID, or any other infectious disease, in the process.