Health Bulletin: Much to be thankful for in pandemic response


Chair, Westfield Board of Health

By Juanita Carnes FNP, Board of Health chair

November is National Gratitude Month, encouraging our country to embrace the power of gratitude. Saying thank you is only a small part of gratitude: “Gratitude’s amazing powers have the ability to shift us from focusing on the negative to appreciating what is positive in our lives.” Research has actually shown that living a life with gratitude improves overall health and well-being.

Traditionally, at the Thanksgiving table, many families gather around the table, with each person saying what they are grateful for. Often, many state the obvious things most of us tend to take for granted in our daily lives: family, friends and health. Sadly, some are giving thanks for a meal, a bed, a roof over their head even for one night, a day of sobriety, access to medical care, one more day on this earth and many other basic needs.

When pondering what I might say at the table this year, my gut feeling is, how can we be thankful as we approach the end of second year of a devastating, global pandemic that has taken the lives of our friends, family, neighbors, colleagues and more with no end in sight?

Those of us working clinically in health care have faced a seemingly unsustainable level of stress, yet we persevere. Public health officials have encountered the same. Every occupation has been negatively affected. The politics that have come into play in managing this pandemic has caused immeasurable issues and loss. Not to mention the patients who have suffered, those that are grieving, children’s lives being irreversibly affected, financial impacts and social impacts. The depressing list is never ending.

Our Health Department and board have been investing knowledge, time, heart, soul and energy for the last 20 months with the sole purpose of keeping this community as healthy as possible, with minimal losses, utilizing the resources available. At our meeting Zoom meeting this week, many attended to speak at public participation. It was disheartening to hear criticism and complaints about the job we have been doing, or erroneously perceived as not doing. I can speak for myself, Margaret and Stan when I say that the team at City Hall has been working above and beyond their job descriptions and pay grade. We, the board, are so proud of the work they are doing. Every week or even every day of COVID-19 brings new research, new guidelines, new medications/vaccines, good news, bad news, good news, bad news and more.

It truly had been a roller coaster ride that never ends. They have had to be innovative, think outside the box, stay up to date and do more with less within the boundaries of municipal government. They have persisted despite roadblocks, abusive behavior and unwarranted criticism. So much brainpower and work goes on in Room 220 at 59 Court St. to care for each and every member of this community, unbeknownst to most.

Despite the negativity, our health director, Joe Rouse, humbly and gracefully rose to the occasion and demonstrated true gratitude. Gratitude to the citizens for caring enough to be there and share their thoughts. He acknowledged despite differing of opinions, we are all in this together, and our end goal is the same. With the weight of Westfield’s rising case numbers (99 this week) and decreasing vaccine rate of 50 percent (due to the inclusion of 5- to 11-year-olds increasing the potential eligible) on his shoulders, Joe sets a high bar for his staff, the board and this city. This November, I am thankful to serve on the Health Board with Joe at the forefront leading with kindness, respect, optimism, intelligence, flexibility, resourcefulness, empathy, humor and gratitude. I am grateful for the entire health department and board members for all you do. Thank you.

More than ever, Westfield needs to stop the spread of this deadly virus. Wear your mask, use hand sanitizer, social distance, avoid large gatherings, get vaccinated, educate with science, encourage others to get vaccinated and practice gratitude.

Take care of yourself and someone else.

Dedicated health department members have been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic, as well as Board of Health members Juanita Carnes, FNP, Margaret Doody, and Stan Strzempko, M.D.

We keep working to keep you safe.

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