I was so excited when things started to get back to normal status post quarantine, and I know you agree. While the family time was great and it was awesome to slow down and reflect on life, in all reality I was tired of an isolation world. I missed going to restaurants and letting my children go out into the neighborhood to play with their friends. I wanted the public pool reopened, and I wanted to go into a store without worrying I might contract something. I wanted store shelves to be fully stocked, and more than anything I wanted people to see my smile that the face mask hid. I was ready for a return to normal.
As a critical care nurse, I talked with my peers about a resurgence of COVID-19 before restrictions even lifted. I mean, we intelligently hypothesized it would, but I guess there was that part of me, the starry-eyed dreamer, perhaps, who hoped that Coronavirus could just disappear. Yet despite my desires, I knew it had not, and that knowledge was nailed home this week. So, consider this a Public Service Announcement, friendly reminder, or simply some advice from your friend on the frontlines of healthcare.
1. COVID-19 did not disappear. I repeat, it did not magically go away. The numbers of active cases began to fall because, logically, the population had been self isolating at home for a month or more. The powers that be wanted to prevent a spike of infection that would overwhelm the healthcare system. Remember the term “flatten the curve?” Well, they did just that. We (pat yourself on the back) did just that. We kept contamination and disease spread at a minimum while stuck at home, and in that process saw infection rate numbers drop from their April highs to a nice May low. Good job.
As numbers dropped the noise became less. The news networks found new stories to report, and COVID took the backseat. But hear me now. Just because it’s not on every single news channel, that doesn’t mean we cured it. It’s still here.
2. COVID-19 pandemic was not a hoax! Listen, I love a conspiracy theory as much as the next guy, but trust me on this one. It is sadly and tragically very real. While working on the frontlines of COVID, in a critical care COVID isolation unit, in a large, multi-ethnic, highly populated area, I saw far too much of this pandemic. My area wasn’t as bad as NYC, but in the face of this disease, it doesn’t have to be. Outcomes were not great, and I had to be intentional in self care not to crumble under the stress and depression of far too much death from this disease. I wish to God it wasn’t real, but none of us can unsee the fear on our patients’ faces or soon forget the tearful prayers over the phone with family.
I know that when things improve it’s easier to say the problem was overstated. When you desire for life to return to normal it’s easier to convince yourself it was never that bad. I mean, you can go into public without fear if you tell yourself the government and media faked statistics to exert control. When you don’t know someone personally who has suffered with Coronavirus or who has worked around it, it’s easy to ignore. You can just pretend it was never a thing to begin with, and you can get back to life per usual. Gosh, I wish I had the privilege of thinking this way.
3. COVID-19 numbers are on the rise. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news. I don’t want to be a joy-kill. I want to go to the mall and take my kids to amusement parks. I want everything like it was before, but that time is not right now. I don’t honestly know if things will ever be the same, and in some ways, maybe they shouldn’t be. Remember the great stuff we learned through this all? Like, washing your hands? Yes, we should still be doing that.
Three weeks ago I saw the best COVID-19 positive numbers I’ve seen since this started. It was awesome!! The unit was almost empty, and it seemed a welcoming sight compared to the previous couple of months.
Two weeks ago I barely noticed that the numbers had doubled I think a part of my brain acknowledged the fact, but that hopeful gal inside tried to push it away.
This week the numbers doubled again. This week staffing is tight to care for these people, and the rooms are filling back up. When I saw the number of positive cases I knew this was it. This was the predicted spike/return/resurgence of cases after restrictions were lifted. Y’all, I’m not gonna lie; it kinda scared me.
Here’s the thing. We can beat this. We can be smart. We can do the things we know we need to do. Do you remember how soap, Lysol, Clorox, and hand sanitizer flew off the shelves in April? Well, that makes me wonder, were folks not being sanitary prior to this pandemic?
It’s ok. I’m not even mad. You can continue your newly found habits to keep this thing manageable. Wash your hands. Don’t stick your hands in your mouth or touch your face if you haven’t. Wear a face mask when you’re in large groups. If not to protect yourself, then to protect someone else. Clean surfaces, and maybe chill on the big group gatherings until we get a better handle on this. It’s ok to still social distance. You don’t need to be up in everybody’s grill anyway. That’s also how other (less deadly) viruses spread.
In the return of COVID I’ve seen people advised as an outpatient to self-quarantine, ignore those doctor orders and infect their whole family. And while a young person may feel just fine, an aging parent or grandparent won’t fair as well.
I’ve seen people come to the hospital to get tested (and test positive) after leaving their shift at a restaurant. SMH. If you are symptomatic, stay home! I know we all need a paycheck, but this is life and death. I’m not exaggerating. I only wish I was.
Bottom line. Although COVID-19 left the news networks, it hasn’t left the hospital bedside. It hasn’t left your neighborhood. I’m not trying to scare you, but I am trying to educate you. Be smart and practice the previous guidelines. Just because life seems like it’s returning to “normal,” that doesn’t mean we have to. We can be better than before.