‘Twas the tenth month of COVID, outside the med school,
The virus was surging, making us look the fool;
Our screeners took temps and filled out our checklists,
In hopes Dr. Fauci would soon pay us a visit.
Our masks were in place over both mouth and nose,
In full PPE from our heads to our toes;
And I in my N95 – quite well fit –
Had just settled down to rest just a bit.
When suddenly I started to get texts non-stop,
I jumped on a Zoom call to see what could be up;
And who should I see in the box, upper right,
Than a crack immunologist, oh what a sight.
Bespectacled, bemused and a tiny bit grouchy,
I knew in a moment this was Dr. Fauci;
At first he was “on mute,” the mic icon all red;
But once that was solved, I recall what he said:
Now Baylor, now UPenn, now Duke and now Vandy,
On Hopkins, on Harvard, on Mayo and Emory.
Learning Health Systems – this is your finest hour,
In our battle with COVID, you hold all the power.
When we had zero testing, no testing at all,
You spooled up research labs to answer the call.
From lab bench to bedside treatments poured out tout suite,
A remarkable feat that was really quite neat.
Need a vaccine? You gave us three, four or five,
That promise did so much to keep hope alive.
New treatments emerged in a chaotic stew,
Phase three clinical trials helped us know what was true.
Young doctors in training, PAs, nurses, et al,
Learned in a pandemic, an order quite tall.
With a passion for learning that must be life-long,
CME helped all doctors discern right from wrong.
And finally, a nod to providers front-line:
This truly has been your moment to shine.
Your safety, your families, and your own burdened hearts,
All took backseat to your blest healing arts.
You battled at onset, you battle on still,
You’ll battle to the end, and please know that it will.
The challenge is not ended, it continues today,
And we owe you a debt that we never can pay.
His eyes were quite moistened, and his voice all aquiver,
He said, “thank you, thank you” for the care you deliver.
And just before clicking on “End Meeting for All,”
Added “Academic Medicine, we’re proud you’ve got this ball.”
From James T. McDeavitt, M.D.
Senior Vice President and Dean of Clinical Affairs, Baylor College of Medicine
Every year about this time, I create a list of presents I think busy healers (and healers in training) would appreciate. I don’t have to tell you that this has been a year that for all of us, but especially for everyone in medicine, has brought a new level of stress and sadness. The healers need healing… and in that spirit, here are some ideas of what you can send your friends in medicine for Hanukkah, Kwanza, Christmas, the Winter Solstice… or to celebrate the end of 2020 and beginning of a new year of hope.
#10. White coat, jacket and/or scrub “bling”. Everyone who works in a hospital has a badge that must be worn all the time. And we all need pens (except for the attendings… we just “borrow” pens that students and residents keep in their pockets for us … just kidding … mostly). Here are some suggestions: Find a lanyard or badge holder from their favorite sports team or that will otherwise have meaning for them. Buy a box of cheap pens (that can be given away to needy attendings) + a great pen that will remind them of you every time they write with it. For white coats, find a meaningful or humorous pin that could be worn on other clothes as well.
#9 Happy Feet. Think about putting together a “happy feet” box – include things like warm slippers, good socks, a certificate for a pair of shoes to wear in the hospital, compression socks, toenail clippers, and any other foot care products that sounds right.
#8 Better sleep. Sleep can be hard if you have had a really hard stretch at work. It’s especially hard if you’ve worked all night and have to sleep during the day. You can put together a combination of gifts like new high-count sheets, eye covers and ear plugs for sleeping after a night shift, a certificate for a new mattress, a white noise machine or a weighted blanket.
#7 Work food. Busy students and residents frequently miss meals. Think about creating home made “snack packs” for the hospital by combining options like nuts, dried fruits, and high quality candy into small zip lock bags. Or buy healthy meal replacement bars in bulk. Make sure they are high quality, real food bars. My favorites are Kind bars but there are many other bars that are healthy and delicious.
#6 Gift cards. When you ask students and residents which gift cards would be most appreciated it’s pretty consistently these three: Amazon, Trader’s Joes, Whole Foods or other grocery stores, and Starbucks.
#5 Digital upgrades. A high-quality phone is a critically important tool in the hospital. Everyone in medicine spends a good part of the day texting each other, looking up patients on Haiku (the Epic phone app), checking UpToDate for the latest treatments, finding other medical information in many other places and – of course – staying in touch with our teams, friends and families. Up to date computers, iPads, and AirPods (or equivalent) are also great gift options for any student or resident.
#4 A cleaner house. Pre pandemic, I recommended someone to help clean as the number one gift for medical folks. But, even with the limitations imposed by COVID, there are still gifts that can help! Number one on this list would be a Roomba so they don’t have to vacuum.
#3 Healthy meals at home that don’t take time. The Instant Pot has been my top recommendation as a gift for students, residents and busy healers for several years. Another wonderful gift I’ve recommended before is How to Cook Everything Fast: A Better Way to Cook Great Food by Mark Bittman. This year, I would add a certificate to meal delivery plans. The one I use is Clean Creations (because I like to have vegetarian options), but many of my friends swear by Freshly. Every city has companies that are similar, so do some homework and you’ll find several to compare. If you are a good cook, you might consider creating your own “meal deliveryservice” for your loved one, especially if you live in the same city.
#2 Caffeine. This comes in different forms for different people, but unless they avoid caffeine for religious reasons, almost every healer and healer in training I know has a go to form of caffeine they love. For most people, it’s coffee. The number one gift on the list (my opinion) for coffee lovers is a Nespresso machine (and some pods to go with it). You can also get them a metal “pod” for their own coffee rather than the Nespresso pods which will save some money. There are other options for pod coffee machines, so you might want to read about them all before deciding. Having tried coffee from a variety of machines, I personal think Nespresso makes the best cup of coffee, but I am partial to espresso. Another great gift option for serious coffee drinkers is programmable coffeemaker so their coffee is ready when they get up at “dark thirty” to get to work. For tea drinkers, there are many options for teas, brewing systems, and pots. For all healers, regardless whether they are coffee or tea drinkers, a gift at the top of the list would have to be a Yeti or Contigo tumbler. These tumblers keep coffee or tea hot for hours… so your drink is still there and still hot when you get pulled away from that first sip.
#1 Money. Students and residents, with rare exceptions, don’t have money for special things. Some don’t have enough money after rent and loans for things most of us would consider essentials. Giving money may seem a bit impersonal, but you can make it personal with a letter, a card, or creative packaging.
p.p.s Thanks so much to my Twitter friends for helping me with ideas!
No one listens, learns, or changes their mind when they are being attacked. As healers, we know this. We deal with patients and families all the time who don’t understand or are so traumatized that the last thing we would think of doing is yelling at them as we try to help them on their journey to health.
We’ve all seen the videos of mobs of people without masks rushing to get to the front of a crowd to hear @realDonaldTrump. We’ve all seen the photos of people in crowds at bars, parties, and on college campuses with no one wearing masks. If you are tempted to think this is ok, I have two things I’d like to share…
It’s not about you.
I totally agree that, as an adult, if you want to not wear a seatbelt, you have that right. But you don’t have the right to drive drunk and kill or injure someone else. If you want to drive 80 miles an hour on your ranch and ignore safety, go for it! But if you want to speed and run stop signs on our shared roads, that’s not ok. Why? Because the person you hit with your car could be a family member or friend… and they will unquestionably be a neighbor (because we are all neighbors).
Masks are about compassion.
If you come down with COVID19, it’s also not just about you. If you do get sick with COVID19 (and I hope you don’t), it’s not about “getting over it” like a cold. You could have a lifetime of consequences… but if it was just about you, that would be your choice. But that’s not how this works. If you are COVID19 positive (with or without symptoms), you can infect your elderly family member, the kid next door who is on chemotherapy for cancer, the nurse who takes care of you when you go, frightened and alone (since no one will be allowed to stay with you), to the hospital.
Since my new friend on Twitter asked me about the science, I’m happy to help with some of what we know:
- Masks decrease the spread of COVID19 in a community.
- Masks do not cause low oxygen levels.
- Masks do not cause an increase in carbon dioxide.
- COVID can be spread for up to 6 days before you develop symptoms.
- There are people who have the virus, can spread it to others, but never develop symptoms.
- The virus is small, but it travels on droplets (that’s how others get infected) – and that’s why masks work. (That’s also why it’s not cool to put on masks made of lace, gauze or other things with holes)
- We can’t rely on herd immunity, unless we think its ok to have up to 2 million dead Americans.
p.s. I changed how I interact with folks on social media after I listened to Nadia Bolz Weber’s interview with Megan Phelps-Roper on her podcast, The Confessional. Megan Phelps-Roper was a member of the Westboro Baptist Church who became the voice of her family on Twitter, spreading their particularly venomous message. But a funny thing happened … there were people on Twitter who, instead of yelling at her, responded to her venom with compassion and curiosity… and it changed her life.
It’s almost impossible during times of stress to be motivated to do hard things. For all but the most hardcore exercisers, ice cream just seems more soothing than running when you are emotionally exhausted (Right?). I’m no different. But, as much as I would like to think “later” will be ok to regain what I have lost in these months of being more sedentary than usual, I have begun to realize that I needed to get moving again.
Enter Richard Rohr
I’ve been a fan of Richard Rohr for years. He’s a gifted writer with the laugh and smiling eyes of someone who has tapped into something I want to know more about. I subscribe to his weekly email, which this week introduced Jonathan Stall’s practice of moving “as a way to invite brave creativity.”
There is a lot to unpack in that idea.
What exactly would “brave creativity” look like? I’m not sure, but it sounded like something I, and I suspect all of us, need more of right now.
“We invite you, as able, to take some time this weekend to move mindfully through your local area.”
I set off on a different kind of walk.
I grabbed my mask and headed out for a walk in my neighborhood, trying to think about this not just as exercise, but as something more. I read Jonathan Stall’s advice again:
- Bring something to jot ideas down while you are out, but more importantly, invite your “goals/pains/dreams” to join you on this walk.
- Walk for at least 30-40 minutes
- Wear a mask if you get within 6-10 feet of anyone (respect for your neighbor)
- Start the walk with a sense of being open. “As you begin to move, seek the realms of wonder, of space, and of reaching high into what’s possible…”
Where did all these lawn chairs come from?
I’ve walked many times before in my neighborhood, and I’m an observant person. But today, as I walked, I began to notice all the chairs on people’s lawns and all the swings, and “tires” hanging from trees.
Were they always here and I didn’t notice them?
Are more people sitting outside now than before – even though it’s outrageously hot here in August?
Is this because of how much we all need (safe) connection to each other during the time of pandemic?
Are there actually more chairs, swings and tires because of how much we all need to hear birds, see trees and listen to the cicadas in the summer evening right now?
Yes, there will be next steps. This experiment led me to more questions than answers, but I had a real a sense of being taught, too.
Let me know what you see.
As a former Program Director, I couldn’t help but imagine the conversations that occurred after this event…
After “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?????” – which would have probably been my first sentence – I would have been upset, but I also would have realized that these residents were meeting in the way that residents and students have met forever. They were having a goodbye party for people who were leaving. Probably not outside, and probably not socially distanced, judging by the outcome, but I totally get it.
But the consequences of a casual party like this are real and it’s worth thinking about this by asking three questions…
1. What are the chances you’ll get infected at a party?
This one is easy. You have 100% chance of getting infected… unless it’s 0%… and there is no way to know which way it will go.
A recent report of 32,480 nursing home residents and staff showed that “Of the individuals who tested positive, 70.8% of residents and 92.4% of staff lacked symptoms at the time of testing.” The authors also showed that the viral load (which helps predict whether or not the individual is infectious) was the SAME in people who had symptoms and those who didn’t; “In a large cohort of individuals screened for SARS-CoV-2 by qRT-PCR, we found strikingly similar distributions of viral load in patients with or without symptoms at the time of testing.”
What this means in practice is that every single person we encounter has to be considered infectious. And that means every event and every encounter has to be carried out in a way that will prevent transmission of the virus.
2. What are the chances you’ll get really sick or even die if you get COVID19?
Based on data from the CDC, for 20-40 year old people with no underlying medical conditions, here’s the answer to my hypothetical M&M question:
- 700 of the M&Ms will give you fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath. Lots of patients describe it as having “lungs on fire.”
- 440 of the M&Ms will give you some pretty awful muscle cramps and aches.
- 120 of the M&Ms will make you lose you sense of smell and taste. It usually comes back, but not always
- 3 or 4 of them will put you in the hospital (that goes up to around 20 M&Ms if you have an underlying medical condition)
- 1 of them will put you in the ICU unless you have an underlying medical condition. In that case, 5 of them will put you in the ICU
- It’s unlikely you’ll die unless you have an underlying medical condition, in which case 3 of the M&Ms will kill you. If you carry this home to your 70 year old grandparent with an underlying medical condition, they have a 20% chance of dying (the equivalent of 200 M&Ms for you).
3. If you are in health care, what effect will this have on your patients and your colleagues?
Whenever I struggle with a decision as a doctor, I go back to my “rules”, which serve as the reference point for my moral compass.
Rule 1: Do what’s right for the patient.
Rule 2: Look cool doing it.
Rule 3: Don’t hurt anything that has a name.
If, as a healer, you decide that “just this once” won’t be much of a risk and you end up with COVID19, you break all three rules. You will be infectious for a long time before you get symptoms… which means you will expose patients, friends and colleagues (who all have names) to this potentially deadly disease. And – there is nothing less “cool” than creating a avoidable situation that ends up with colleagues having to cover for you while you are in quarantine and/or recover from COVID19.
We all want this to end… and it will.
We have a special calling – and responsibility – as healers (which includes all healthcare workers since healing takes a team). It’s what makes our work so filled with awe, and so rewarding. It’s also a burden sometimes. But we all took an oath, we all made a promise, and when we are past this point in history and looking back, it will mean something that we held true to that promise.
“We had a graduation celebration, but it was smaller than usual… only 20 people… and the older people just stayed a little while.”
“We meant to stay socially distanced… but you know kids.”
“God will protect me… I don’t need a mask.”
Oh, how I wish this were over. We all do.
And it will end.
It will end, but what we have to grapple with now is how many of us will die unnecessarily before it ends… because the rest of us “had to get our hair cut” or thought this was some kind of political “hoax”… or just couldn’t be bothered.
Because I am a physician, I have a lot of friends and family who call to ask some version of “Do you think it would be safe if….” I usually respond by telling them what I’m doing and then answer questions as they try to figure out the changes they need to make to be safe.
I am in awe of how much we have learned about how the virus spreads in aerosols, how it stays on surfaces and how very infectious it is. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the scientists who have tackled this pandemic with heart, mind and soul. This knowledge is guiding us, protecting us, and is essential to save lives.
So, with gratitude for the science that has helped us better understand #COVID19, here’s what I tell my friends and family we are doing when they ask….
Stay Home. We stay home unless it’s for an essential need. For example – we would go to the dentist for a painful tooth (but not for a routine cleaning). We have supported our local restaurants with pick up or delivery, but we don’t go to restaurants yet. When we do, it will only be outside and only if we are sure CDC guidelines for restaurants are being followed. There is no way we would go inside for a movie, rally, worship or other public gathering. The data are more than clear… large gatherings inside are the highest risk activities right now.
I get our vegetables from Pierre at a Plant It Forward farmer’s market sponsored by Dandelion Cafe. (I’m mentioning them on purpose because having these just picked vegetables has been a true gift!) But I have the rest of my groceries delivered. I ask the delivery person to put them on the step (by text). I wear a mask, and don’t open the door until they are more than 6 feet away to thank them. (BTW, they are doing amazing work to keep our communities safe – please tip often and as much as you can).
One of the questions I get asked about staying home is “but I’m young… isn’t it ok for me to go out?”. The answer is yes and no. Younger people are less likely to die or develop chronic lung disease from COVID19, but it’s not impossible. Here’s the real issue – If you end up infected with COVID19 you’ll infect people around you that are at high risk… and they could die or have horrible outcomes from the disease. Do you really want to risk hurting your grandparents or that nice guy at the store who always says “Hi” to you? Think about creating a “quarantine pod” as an alternative to going out to restaurants, bars and concerts… it’s not going to be the same, but it’s a good compromise to keep socially connected while being as safe as possible.
Do it virtually if you can. If we are asked to run or be in a meeting, we do everything possible to make it virtual. If you are in charge of gatherings, this is an important responsibility. There is no reason to expose any of your colleagues or employees unnecessarily.
I’m an academic surgeon. I can’t do surgery virtually, but I can do a lot of clinic visits by video. I can do all my group teaching and committee meetings by Zoom. There is no moral justification to have meetings in person if they can be done online and I’m happy, as someone who can decide, to make sure my students and colleagues aren’t exposed to more risk than necessary.
Socialize outside. If I am meeting a friend (or friends) I’ll only do it outside and only if we have discussed in advance how to manage the event. I’m excited that this weekend I’m going to an outside workshop that FAMHouston is facilitating to teach refugees how to grow vegetables in container gardens. These are my friends, so I really want to see them! We have established in advanced that we will meet CDC guidelines with everyone in masks and more than 6 feet apart.
#WearYourMask. If I’m around anyone, I wear a mask, and I ask them to wear one – AND we stay at least 6 feet apart. The masks only come off if we are outside and more than 6 feet apart. It’s also really important to wear it properly! In particular, if your nose is hanging out, you might as well not have it on. Two other important things: 1) A face shield alone is better than nothing, but isn’t as protective as a mask and 2) the masks with the “breathing valve” aren’t worth wearing. Remember, my mask protects you. Your mask protects me. That’s why if we all wear masks we can stop the spread of COVID19!
Exercise with a mask available. When I’m outside exercising, I have a cooling mask (it is Houston, after all!) around my neck. As soon as I see someone coming towards me, I pull up my mask. I get a good 20-30 feet beyond them before it comes back down.
Bring your own glass. I had a friend over for a glass of wine on the back porch not too long ago. They didn’t come through my house (and I would do the same for them). I opened the gate to the backyard, and they walked through my back yard to the back porch where I met them. They brought their own wine glass. We sat on opposite sides of the porch, 10 feet away from each other and had a wonderful, soul healing visit.
Assume if someone else has touched it there is COVID19 on it. It’s a long shot, but what if… the UPS driver has COVID19 but is asymptomatic, coughs on their hands, picks up the package they are delivering … and now you pick it up. One inadvertent rub of the eyes at that point could easily mean an infection.
We put an old towel on a table and designated that table as “contaminated.” We put new packages on the table and immediately wash our hands. (If you work in an OR, you will understand this well… if you touch something contaminated you “rescrub” i.e. wash your hands before touching something else.) This sounds complicated but it’s not… if it’s just been handled by someone else, we assume it’s contaminated.
We have found that it’s easy to leave things on the table for 3 days before we open them (surprised us, too!). Obviously, groceries that need to be in the refrigerator are a little different (they get put in new plastic bags which go into the fridge). And, because three days may be long for some items…bottles of beverages get washed with soap and water before they go in the fridge.
Now, I have to be honest. A lot of new data are coming out that says we may be on the far end of safe with this. Some surfaces clearly are more at risk (like door handles), but things that get delivered are probably not really a problem. This is one to figure out your comfort level, stay up to date on the new info, and come up with a reasonable plan.
I hope this helps.
Whenever I am tempted to say “just this once” … or fall into the trap of feeling like it can’t really be “that bad” to meet without masks, I think about how all my colleagues are putting their lives on the line to care for infected people… and how I would feel if I were the one responsible for their death, or the death of someone I know and love.
Be safe and take care of each other.
I just waved goodbye to a dear friend as she started the drive to her new residency – with a jar of “Tamar”, my sourdough starter* in her cooler. I was going to print some instructions to send with the starter, but decided it might be better to put those instructions here for her – and for all of you who have thought about making sourdough bread (but think you are too busy).
This is a legitimate question. What I’ve learned from making my own bread during the pandemic is that it’s more than just having delicious, warm bread to sustain you. I won’t wax too poetic, but there are three reasons I think you should ponder baking your own bread:
- A sourdough starter is a living thing who is there to help feed you
- Making the bread is an act of self-care, a gift to yourself
- This is a profoundly slow and deliberate act. Mindfulness doesn’t get any better than this.
So, if you are intrigued, I’ve thought about this for a while and here is how I think this could work for residents – even during a crazy 80 hour week.
Step 1: Get or make a starter
There’s a decent chance that someone where you work bakes sourdough bread. If they do, they will be delighted to give you some starter. It’s not a bad way to make some new friends and/or expand your circle of friends.
If you don’t find someone with starter, make your own. Sourdough starter comes from the bacteria and yeast that are in our environment so it’s a matter of mixing flour, water and time. If you want to help out some scientists while you make your starter, check out the NC State Sourdough Project.
Step 2: Understand the big picture
- Sourdough starter is a living thing. You need to feed it once a week by adding some water and flour. Period. If you want to stop here and just have the starter around “in case” you decide to bake, this is all you have to do.
- You are going to love the science of this. I’ll even predict you’ll end up using a scale to make sure your grams of ingredients are exact… but remember, as much as this will feel like science, its also how our ancestors made bread thousands of years ago. Don’t lose that perspective.. or that connection… when you bake.
- It’s a four-step process with variations depending on the recipe:
- Mix the 4 ingredients (starter, flour, salt and water) to make dough
- Rise – long and slow. Overnight in the fridge, 2-6 hours on the counter. It varies by the recipe.
- 2nd rise – usually. for 1-3 hours and in a container to shape the dough
Step 3: Find an easy recipe to start with so you don’t get overwhelmed…
Here’s a really easy first recipe:
- Mix the dough (1 cup starter, 1.75 cups lukewarm water, 5 cups of flour, 1 tablespoon of salt)
- Let it rise for about an hour then stretch it out and fold it onto itself several times. The recipe says repeat this once an hour for a total of three times, but you can skip the 2nd and/or 3rd times if you need to.
- Put it in the refrigerator overnight.
- Flip it over, seam side up into a bowl or loaf pan (to shape it) and let it sit for 2.5-3 hours.
- Flip it back over (seam side down) into your pan, slash the top to provide a controlled way to expand and bake.
Step 4: Map out a schedule
Let’s say it’s Thursday evening and you are off on Friday. Here’s how this recipe might work for you…
- Thursday when you get home, mix the dough. If you don’t have time to let it rise on the counter for an hour and stretch it, just put it in the refrigerator. (Trust me, it will work). Take the starter that didn’t go into the recipe, feed it, and put it back in the refrigerator.
- Friday when you wake up put the dough in a bowl or loaf pan and let it sit for 2-3 hours on the counter. This will mold it into whatever shape you want.
- Heat up your cooking container (dutch oven, oven proof pot, tray) as you preheat the oven.
- Put parchment paper on top of the bowel and flip the dough out of the bowl onto the parchment paper.
- Use the parchment paper to lower the dough into your hot cooking container.
- Score the top and bake!
- (Don’t forget to let it sit for an “hour” before you slice it… no matter how good it smells)
It’s an art. Everyone has bread that bombs.
Don’t worry! Just keep the starter alive, regroup and try again!
If you find you are having issues with getting a good rise, it’s ok to put some dry yeast in as “insurance”. Poilâne’s famous sourdough includes it as part of the recipe, so it can’t be a “failure” in the sourdough world!
What to study next
If you are reading this, there’s a good chance you are Type A. You’ll probably get a notebook and treat this like a science experiment … like I did. Go for it! It turns out that even though sourdough bread has only 4 ingredients (starter, flour, water, salt) there are lots of variables that can affect the loaf e.g. temperature of the water, humidity in the room, etc. There is real joy in paying this much attention while creating something that is so sustaining. On the other hand, if this doesn’t make you happy, just make the bread!
Blogs and websites that have helped me a lot
King Arthur Flour – Sourdough Baking: The Complete Guide (Check out their blog, too)
Here are some of my favorite books so far (all links are to independent bookstores)
I wish you mindful baking and joy from your sustaining and delicious bread!
*There is a tradition of naming sourdough starters.
As a longtime customer of your dealership, a physician, and a concerned citizen I wanted to reach out to you to talk about the experience I had today when I picked up my car. Please know that this is not an attempt to complain – it’s an attempt to explain – and hopefully make you, your family, your employees and your customers a little safer.
I woke up this morning excited I’d be getting my car back today! Since I realized I didn’t want to expose or be exposed to anyone that wasn’t necessary, I called ahead to pay online (thank you for making that possible!). But, once I got to the dealership… well, it just wasn’t safe.
I stood outside while someone went inside to start the process of checking me out … and here’s what happened – which is what prompted me to write you this letter:
- I watched as one of your customers, who was clearly in at least two, if not more, high-risk groups walked up the ramp. She was passed by an employee coming down the ramp, who passed her shoulder-to-shoulder. The employee’s mask was on their face, but below their nose.
- I watched as the service folks checked in two people who both had masks on properly (as did your employees). But they walked up to them and held out their hand to take keys, which meant they were within 2-3 feet of each other.
- The service employee who checked me out came out with papers and then handed me a pen – which I suspect they had been using all day – and stood right next to me. When I shook my head and asked if there was another way to do this, they said “I can get you hand sanitizer”… and then “We know it’s coming again.”
- When my car was returned to me, the employee who drove it up to me had a mask on – around their neck. The windows were up and there was no smell or sign of any disinfectant. They walked up to me (2 feet away) and reached out to hand me my key (which I put into a ziplock bag I had brought for this purpose).
- As I was leaving, an employee walked by with their valved mask on… around their neck. Two strikes! These valved masks are being sold because it’s “easier to breathe” but that’s because all the air you breath out escapes… with the virus. So, they have no benefit at all.
Let’s break this down… and I hope this will help you and other businesses to think about this in a way that makes sense. We all want businesses to open – and stay open! So working together to prevent more spread of this deadly virus just makes sense. What’s making this hard for some people is how politicized this has become. But, it’s important to know that this virus doesn’t care how you vote or what you think. This is just medicine, science and common sense.
The official CDC recommendations can be found here, but here’s how I would translate them for your employees i.e. what I would post somewhere if I were in your shoes:
Assume everyone you meet has COVID19
Unlike other viruses, you can be infected for up to 6 days before you feel sick. During that time, you can infect other people. Which means that everyone you meet could be infected… whether or not they are ill. If there is nothing else your employees remember, they should remember this.
If anyone with COVID 19 coughs on their hands, touches something and then you touch it (followed by touching your face), you can become infected.
This is not the primary way this virus spreads but it can spread this way. (This is why it was so upsetting to be handed a pen.) I also wish the person who returned my car had a spray bottle of disinfectant with them. I sure would have felt better if they got out of the car, sprayed down the seat and steering wheel and then wiped it off. Oh, by the way, once COVID19 is on a surface (depending on what the surface is made of) it can last for up to three days. That’s why it’s so important to disinfect surfaces frequently and wash our hands after we touch anything that hasn’t just been disinfected.
If anyone with COVI9 talks, yells, speaks, coughs or sneezes in a closed space, the virus can hang in the air for up to 3 hours. If you walk into that space during that time, you can become infected.
I can’t think of a worse closed space for COVID19 than inside a car! It’s true for any room, including your office space, but this is why I was perplexed when the person who returned my car didn’t have their facemask on. This is also why there is a “6 foot” rule and why we wear masks. (By the way, it’s not either-or, it’s both). We wear masks to protect others, not us… which means if we all do it, we’re are all protecting each other. (That’s also why you shouldn’t let any employee wear a valved mask) We stand at least 6 feet away from each other because the viral load will be much lower if we are talking to someone who is infected. By the way, the aerosol an infected person produces when they sneeze can travel up to 20 feet … and, remember, those viral particles can remain in the air up to three hours.
Most of us will probably be infected eventually, but that’s not relevant.
I understand that in the face of such a terrible disease there is a tendency to just throw up your hands. I’m sure that’s why your employee told me “We know there’s another wave coming”.
But here’s the deal – every day we postpone any one of us getting COVID19 (or preventing it, if all goes well!) is one day closer to a vaccine.
With every day that goes by, we also understand more about COVID19 and how to treat it… so the odds of not needing the hospital, ICU, or morgue goes up.
For every case we prevent, we are actually preventing many, many more cases because of how this spreads.
There’s also the part about just being a good person; You don’t want to be the person who bends the rules, gets sick and then infects family, friends or customers.
You have a wonderful dealership and I will continue to be an enthusiastic customer. Your service is incredible, your employees are kind. Stay safe, stay well, and thanks for giving me an opportunity to share this information with you and for others.
Mary L. Brandt, MD
I have such sorrow, such a heavy heart. How, on the same day we mourn those who died fighting for our freedom should we have to mourn 100,000 mostly preventable deaths from #COVID19?
How can people justify gathering together like this party in Missouri?
Parties like this will almost surely lead to COVID19 infections…. and deaths. Probably not death for the people who attended parties like this one, but the death of their grandparents, their friends recovering from cancer, the doctors and nurses who see them and take care of them when they fall ill from COVID19.
This is not hard. COVID19 is a very infectious virus that spreads between us when we breath, cough, sneeze or sing near each other. We just have to decrease the time we are together, the distance between us, and cover our nose and mouth when we are with other people if we want to protect each other.
Disregarding the science behind how to deal with this pandemic is like standing in front of a burning building and telling the firefighters as they arrive that there isn’t really a fire.
There is a fire, friends. It will stop eventually, as we get better and better at treating and preventing the spread of COVID19, but for right now… our house is on fire.
I recently listened to the first episode of Nadia-Bolz Weber’s new podcast ““The Confessional”. In that episode, she interviewed Megan-Phelps Roper who grew up in the Westboro Baptist Church. Megan’s “job” for the church, along with picketing synagogues, the LGBTQ community and the funerals of American soldiers killed in the Middle East, was to use Twitter to spread the hateful beliefs of the church. And boy was she successful.
But then something changed. Instead of being yelled at on Twitter by people who (justifiably) found the behavior of the Westboro Baptist Church abhorrent, she was befriended by someone who was kind to her. I’ll let you read this article, her book, or listen to the podcast, but through the kindness of her new Twitter friend she was able to have space to think without being judged… which led her to a place of love rather than hate.
As I thought about the angry responses to some of my recent Twitter posts, some of which I can’t even share here because of the language, I realized that “yelling”, in person or online never leads anywhere. If we are to get through this time together, and alive, we have to be kind to each other – in person and online. We have to see through the rhetoric and understand that anger often comes from a place of fear. We have to acknowledge that we are all afraid… and that we are all in this together.
Wear your mask. Stay home when you can. Stay at least 6 feet apart. And, please… be kind.