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Dr. Phillip Petersen shares his perspective on COVID-19

by Phillip Petersen, M.D., Clearwater Valley Hospital and Clinics

As you can imagine, COVID-19 has not left my mind for the past three months. Because of my age and medical conditions, I am at higher risk of a bad outcome if I am infected. As such, I have been fairly compulsive about checking the stats for this disease in our state on a daily or twice daily basis.

Interestingly, my personal family experience with pandemics was paradoxically a good one. My grandfather was in the army in World War I. He was in France, about to be sent to the front. His entire unit came down with the 1918 influenza. They were declared "not battle ready" and held back. By the time they had recovered, the war was winding down and he ended up never seeing combat.

The current epidemic shares features of previous outbreaks. These include the Plague, the 1918 Influenza, HIV, and Ebola. They generally start in the cities and spread rurally later. Initially, there isn't much known about the disease. There ends up being a lot of misinformation, guesses, and frequently bad social behavior; COVID-19 is no different. There is a lot of faulty opinion circulating on the internet and over television.

So, who do you listen to? My rule is to ignore anyone who has something to sell, is political, or has an axe to grind. Listen to the health experts. The Centers for Disease Control, the National Institute of Health, and the Idaho Department of Health are the people with the knowledge base, and with the motivation to keep us healthy.

Idaho, along with much of the rest of the country, is starting to re-open. We are in a better position to do this than many other states. Being rural, COVID-19 came to us later, and we had the advantage of being able to observe what happened elsewhere. In addition, when Governor Little issued the stay at home order, new cases dropped dramatically. With easing of restrictions, I would expect a bump in the number of infections. The question is how many, and where.

Every week, we learn more about the Coronavirus. Most important is that we have learned how to not get infected. While we can't control what others do, we can do things to protect ourselves. The virus is spread in groups, in water droplets people cough out, and from surfaces that people touch and contaminate. If we wear a mask and avoid groups, especially inside, we protect ourselves from those around us. If we have to go to the store, we need to be efficient, know what we are getting, don't touch anything we aren't going to buy, and clean our hands on the way out. If we are compulsive about taking care of ourselves, we can avoid becoming ill from this.

Go outside and do things. You can go for a hike, a walk, or a drive, and if you aren't crowding others, you are safe. Even in shutdown, you can have fun and enjoy life. If you have questions, you can call the hospital, or read the information from the websites of the Health Department, CDC, and National Institute of Health.

Photo: Phillip Petersen, M.D.

Window on the Clearwater
P.O. Box 2444
Orofino, ID 83544
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