Me again. I’m like electronic shit on your electronic shoe-just can’t quite get rid of me!!! This week’s burning topic: WHAT’S YOUR PLAN? Some things you just don’t plan for, like freak natural disasters (?!?!); other things, like death and taxes, are so inevitable that you do things like make out a will or set aside income withholdings. Other things are sorta in-between. If you have a beach house in a place subject to seasonal hurricanes, you take certain precautions and know in advance how and to where you will evacuate. We’re all now in a very similar moment. Most of us are already in a certain pandemic prevention mode, minimizing social interactions, distancing, masks etc.. That’s what we are all doing now. But what is your plan if someone close to you actually GETS sick with Covid, or at least tests positive for the virus? If you’ve been isolating with just a handful of family members and coworkers, what happens when one of them is diagnosed? Gotta start thinking about this, because it’s entirely likely that many of us will be in this situation sooner than later.
A couple of weeks ago I grumbled about a situation that occurred twice in one week: both a patient and my oldest son’s girlfriend were in work places that had some amorphous exposure to either a recently recovered Covid patient or a family member thereof. In both situations the employer wanted the employees tested so they could continue to work. I grumbled because it was a complete waste of everyone’s time and of tests. If I was exposed directly to the virus yesterday and had my nose swabbed today, even if I’m destined to come down with it in a few days the test will be negative, because I’m doing it too early-it’s a useless gesture, done only to satisfy appearances of having a plan and/or caring about public health.
But now I’m talking about a different situation. At some point, a family member, a coworker or even YOU will be contacted as having had exposure to a definite case. Whether symptomatic or not, this will lead to testing. If that test is positive, what are you gonna do? In my previous example, I faulted the employers for not having a realistic plan for dealing with the inevitable situation; I believe lots of businesses right now do NOT have a plan for this. But we each, in turn, may find ourselves dealing with the situation, so best to plan for it now. Whether a place of business or a family household, we have to plan for how to handle this scenario. In an ideal universe, everything shuts down and all parties involved go to their separate quarters for a two week quarantine. And I also dream of a Jeannie that can blink her head and make anything just so. (If you are under fifty years old and I just lost you, look it up on IMDB). Some places, say a nursing home for example, simply CAN’T close down and send everyone home. They’ve gotta quarantine the involved resident/staff member, disinfect, and carry on with the best measures they can make in the situation. For families, barring any available guest house or nearby second home, the “positive tested” person should stay quarantined in one room of the house while remaining family members bring meals and necessities to their door, for two weeks. That person needs to get retested at some interval, while the family members/coworkers need to engage in testing as well.
Like many of you I feel like the walls are closing in around me on this. My own daughter-in-law has ill coworkers and they are all awaiting results of testing; in the meantime, I can no longer see my kids in person. And as the pandemic progresses, I’m feeling increasingly nervous about seeing my 85 year old dad at all, even with distancing measures. For our part, here in the office, we have made the move to working in separate parts of the office and wearing our masks all day. With Erica in the front office, Jim in his own office, Natalie now set up in the lab, and me hovering between my office and an exam room (I’m restless), we hope to be prepared to carry on, even if one of us gets infected. As for me, my plan is to continue to manage your care even if I get the virus, though an in person visit will be out. That assumes I don’t get bad sick. Having made a career of working thru migraines, it will take a ventilator to keep me from working. But let’s just hope it never comes to that. Remember, as I said earlier, even for us
older folks, the odds are still in our favor. But that’s OUR plan. Work in separate rooms. Quarantine if we have to. Try to keep moving forward.
All that is hard enough, but I already reported last week on the rub in all this: not enough tests. There is a local non-profit set up to provide testing at sites around the city-it’s coreresponse.org; likewise the county health departments are doing tests by appointment. There is no telling how long tests will be available; it’s clear that resources are strained and in the last week results of tests for various people have taken just over a week. I suspect that the turnaround time may get worse, not better. Georgia has administered over a hundred thousand tests thus far. But our state is home to over ten MILLION individuals. Not only are we not even close to knowing how much this virus is present in our population, but as more people become infected, more people will require serial, repetitive testing. If you feel panicked, it’s because we we are sitting in a row boat filling with water while we bail it out with paper cups. Last week I said we were in a burning house-if you’re still on that analogy, we’ll say we’re trying to put out the fire with paper cups of water. Just pick the metaphor that terrifies you most and join me in my panic attack.
I confessed to two of you that I spoke with today that I was in the midst of a panic attack; one of you said “ah, the Coronacoaster!” Yes, this up and down of emotions is exactly that, the Coronacoaster. Now that I have a name for it, I’m trying to visualize just how it would look at Universal Studios or at Six Flags. In my mind, it’s a fire engine red ride with flames painted on it. From today on, I vow that at the end of any day that makes me feel panicky, I’m gonna throw my arms up in the air and yell “Weeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” Maybe I’ll throw my arms up and squeal in delight on the easier days too. Can’t. Hurt. A. Thing.
Bless you all. Stay well, stay safe. Make a plan, so when you need to, you can just do it. Dr. Bob
P.S. If you find one of my dogs wandering the streets, please just take them in and know they probably bolted because their house had a crazy person squealing “Weeeeeeeee!”