Berks County Medical Society Medical Record Summer 2020 - 34

Coronavirus Chronicles: Berks Responds

LIVING WITH
COVID-19
by Louise C Grim (,MSed, LPT Co-chair Berks
County Pandemic Advisory Council 2007-2009)

I

n 2007 as a result of concerns about the inevitability of another
pandemic, the Berks County Pandemic Advisory Council,
which I co-chaired, was formed. As a result a comprehensive
County plan was created just in time for the very mild 2009
pandemic. We had lucked out. Fast forward to today and our luck
has run out. What we feared and was predicted to happen is now
upon us. Despite the numerous warnings, we allowed ourselves to
become complacent and were totally unprepared to face this crisis
of epic proportions, which has totally turned our lives upside
down.
This situation has been very difficult for so many. We have
been separated from family and friends, some of whom are in
nursing homes or in the hospital and we are unable to be with
them to hold them and comfort them. We are also unable to visit
with our grandchildren except virtually or 6 feet apart, physical
contact placing us at risk. Attending church services, a source of
strength for many, is also not possible except virtually. Loneliness
has overwhelmed many of us isolated without families or partners.
The mental anguish for those of us who suffer from depression or
mental illnesses can be devastating. The sadness of reading pages
of obituaries knowing so many families are losing loved ones has
also taken its toll. And then the fear and anxiety about engaging
in even basic activities such as grocery shopping, wondering if you
took enough necessary precautions to keep it at bay.
Our days are now spent listening to non-ending coverage of the
crisis, often attracted to the news like moths to flame, watching
Netflix for hours or perhaps reading books, thankfully living in a
community that permits us to take long walks in the park or ride
our bicycles with little to no risk unlike many in other parts of our
community. Occasionally we have gotten together with friends in
our backyard while physically distancing. All of this certainly beats
being on a ventilator.
The most unsettling part of this pandemic for me is that there
is so little known about this novel virus. There are still no definite
answers to important questions that would help to alleviate our
fears and give us hope. But as if this is not enough we are getting
conflicting advice and statements from politicians that are refuted
by scientific and medical experts who are now being sidelined,
ridiculed, demoted or fired for disagreeing with our "leader."

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All of these conflicting statements give rise to confusion,
anxiety and fear about what to do to protect ourselves and who
to believe. We have been looking for guidance and we have been
left scratching our heads with the CDC, the only nationwide
agency responsible for dealing with pandemics, unable to exercise
leadership as politics supplants all. The vacuum created, leaves state
governors and health department officials to make their own rules
which are then countermanded by local governments or the courts.
It has become a free for all and as a result, in some states, armed
gangs encouraged by our "leaders" take the law into their own
hands threatening violence and forcing government offices to shut
down.
So we are not only dealing with fear of getting this virus and
dying but we have to worry about a breakdown in the fabric of
society with all that implies.
When and how will this all end? What unforeseen consequences
will we be facing remains unknown and very unsettling. How
will our economy recover? How do we reestablish trust in our
institutions? To be sure society is being greatly impacted and shaken
to its core. Like catastrophic earthquakes or volcanic eruptions that
leave their permanent imprint on the land, this pandemic will leave
its permanent imprint on society.
Some changes will hopefully have positive consequences and
some will not. These might include better disaster preparedness,
greater use of telemedicine to help the disabled and rural dwellers,
insuring that health care does not depend on our job but rather is a
right that we can all access no matter who we are, positive effects on
the environment with more people working from home, less travel
as business meetings are conducted virtually, keeping people in
their communities of origin and closer to their families.
This crisis will end and we will finally be able to return to
some semblance of normalcy, thanks in great part to the medical
and scientific community focusing all of their energy on finding
solutions and on society doing its part to help mitigate the effects
of this pandemic. We all have an important role to play in this
battle and our role, as lay people, is to remain cautious and exercise
patience and vigilance, however difficult that may be, abiding by
the medical guidelines that will help keep us all safe and advocating
for those who have no voice.



Berks County Medical Society Medical Record Summer 2020

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