By Juanita Carnes FNP, Board of Health chair and Joe Rouse, health director
The United States accounts for 4% of the world population but 20% of the pandemic death toll worldwide. This is an alarming and shameful statistic given that we are a wealthy country with one of the best medical systems in the world. The true death toll is likely much higher. Public health professionals, health institutions and providers can’t end this pandemic alone. The number of new COVID cases has plateaued rather than declined with 20 states reporting increases from the previous week. The vaccination rate is not where it should be either. Experts are concerned these factors and the delta variant will lead to a summer increase in cases and deaths. Massachusetts is one of the states with the highest percentages of vaccinations at 58%. As a community we need to contribute to increasing this rate as well as continue to practice what we have learned to help end this pandemic.
A snapshot of America’s airports, beaches, theme parks, restaurants would lead one to believe the pandemic is behind us. It’s clearly not. We can’t be quick to forget the lives lost and other devastating consequences of this pandemic. There is nothing we would love more as public health professionals than to write a piece without COVID doom and gloom. Most people have thrown out their masks and embraced the loosening of restrictions. Many seem to believe the power of their vaccine is all encompassing and saves them from COVID as well all other communicable diseases. A take-away from this pandemic should at least include remembering to wash your hands, stay home if you are sick and avoid transmitting your germs to others when you are ill.
With the country opening up, more people are gathering, hugging, coughing, sneezing, touching, going back to schools and work, traveling and more. Germs are having a field day. Strep pharyngitis, the common cold, other bacterial and viral upper respiratory infections are rampant. I have had several symptomatic patients claiming they don’t need their masks because they are vaccinated while they are coughing and sniffling. For everyone’s health, masks are still required in any health care facility whether you are vaccinated or not. This is to protect patients and staff from being exposed to COVID. We all need to remember not to pass on other seemingly mild illnesses. The low numbers of the flu this year are directly related to the precautions take for COVID. There is overwhelming evidence supporting the efficacy of masks. The use of face masks to prevent disease transmission dates back to 1910. Some East Asian countries have been routinely wearing masks when ill in public long before this pandemic.
We are no longer bombarded with news of pandemic tragedies. Those heroes and stories have slipped away from newspapers, radios, tv’s and social media. We aren’t even seeing the beautiful reunion stories of families and friends. Those are also forgotten. We are presented with suggested travel destinations for vacations and encouraged to participate in other activities. And reminded to be sure to make your reservations quickly before they are sold out. If we want this pandemic relegated to the history books without a greater death toll, now is not the time to look away from the staggering statistics and forget how diseases are transmitted. We implore you to keep this pandemic in the forefront of your mind until the experts and science have determined the spread has been controlled and vaccination goals reached.
Mixed messages are frustrating but that is the reality of this pandemic. While we celebrate our families, friends, local businesses and summer festivities, remember the necessary precautions. Respect your health and the health and lives of others. Take care of yourself and someone else.
Dedicated health department members who have been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic are: Debra Mulvenna RN, Assistant Director Evelyn Bristol RN, Steve Cipriani, Health Inspector Thomas Hibert, Health Inspector Cheryl McMordie, Office Manager Crystal Dugay, Kathi Cotugno, CORE coordinator Other Board Members: Margaret Doody, Stan Strzempko MD.
WE KEEP WORKING TO KEEP YOU SAFE
Wear your mask when appropriate or requested. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Avoid large gatherings. Save lives. Look for us in next Saturday’s edition.