Orofino,Idaho-Window on the Clearwater
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Election is over; COVID-19 is atill here

by Dr. Phil Petersen, Clearwater Valley Hospital and Clinics

The election is over. So, there will be a somewhat different political climate, as there is after each national episode of voting.

And with each election, there aren't many people who are uniformly happy with every outcome. But that is how democracy is. There are ebbs and flows of the political winds, and the only real consistency is that change that will come with the next election.

Unlike the political changes with the recent election, the behavior of the COVID virus is no different than it was before the election. The physics of how the virus suspends in the air in tiny droplets is the same. The dynamics of spread in group settings has not changed. The way that paper and cotton masks trap virus is the same way it was before the election. The soaps we use to wash our hands remain just as effective in removing and destroying virus.

This is especially important to understand now as our local case load is rising. Most pandemics start in the urban areas where the population is greater and the citizens are in closer proximity to each other, then spread to more rural areas. We are now seeing that spread. We have had more cases in our county, and I can no longer say that we have had no deaths. Our local hospital has felt the strain.

The regional rise in cases has also affected our local hospital. It has dramatically affected our ability to transfer critically ill patients. The usual tertiary referral hospitals have been consistently at or near capacity. Patients have been transferred to more distant hospitals for the lifesaving specialty care needed when our usual resources were at capacity and not accepting new patients. There is a definite risk of non-COVID mortality directly related to the pandemic secondary to medical system overload.

Now for the upside. We know what we need to do. Masks help. The evidence is convincing that more wearing of masks means less spread. A mask isn't perfect, but then neither is a seat belt and air bags. If we wear masks when in a public place, we can keep ourselves safer. If we don't gather in large tight groups, we can keep ourselves safer. If we wash our hands and sanitize the objects we touch, we can keep ourselves safer.

One area of unpredictability with COVID is how it will affect any one person. Age and medical issues increase risk of serious disease and death. But there is no group where everyone is safe. We don't have any way of knowing for sure who will be fine and who won't. Even if we personally don't get really sick, there is likely someone in our circle who will. So, doing all the things that will make us safer personally will also make those we care about safer as well.

Let's do the right things and keep ourselves and those we care about safe!

Photo: Dr. Phillip Petersen
Window on the Clearwater
P.O. Box 2444
Orofino, ID 83544
Phone: (208) 476-0733
Fax: (208) 476-4140