By Amie Hall
With the country still reeling as we work hard to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, there are those who are biting at the bit to get back to “business as usual.” Their desires have not fallen on deaf ears as the president is considering lifting the social distancing regulation to get some of the population back to work. However, despite his intentions, it may be too soon to start thinking about reopening the country.
All over social media, videos can be found of healthcare workers, our front line heroes, full of emotional anxiety over a lack of much needed supplies such as general personal protection equipment (PPE) and ventilators. Hospital beds are in short supply in places hit the hardest, like New York. Even here in El Paso, the number of confirmed cases rises every day. Meanwhile, Texas Governor, Greg Abbott said in a press conference the other day that he was considering reopening our state next week.
His claim is that our state hasn’t been hit very hard by the pandemic, stating that we have an overabundance of available beds in hospitals, and are getting ready to send out PPE and ventilators to other states that are in desperate need. Still, something doesn’t sit right with his numbers, or his claims.
We’ve heard reports from local healthcare workers that PPE is in very short supply here in El Paso. In fact, the claim from some is that the supply is so limited that they are being forced to reuse their masks and gowns for up to a week at a time. If the crisis is so close to being over, then why are they reusing materials that would normally be changed out so often that a new mask or gown is worn for each patient being treated?
In fact, according to Monique Poessiger, Communications Manager with Providence Hospitals here in El Paso:
“Like many other health systems, we have temporarily implemented strategies for PPE conservation, consistent with CDC guidance, to address continued availability of PPE and safe treatment of patients. Adhering to these guidelines ensures adequate availability of supplies during this time when COVID-19 cases are ramping up at a rapid pace.”
Some have stated that the numbers of confirmed cases, and even deaths related to COVID-19 are also inaccurate. While it is being reported by our city leaders that there have only been two COVID-19 related deaths, those along the front line (i.e. healthcare workers) are telling us that some of the deaths are being purposely labeled as other things, such as pneumonia or general old age. Even the CDC numbers of positive cases do not match what our own state government is reporting to the public.
When we reached out to the Hospitals of Providence about the numbers, Ms. Poessiger states:
“In regard to your question about reporting, I’d need to defer you to the city/DPH. All reporting is done and determined by them.”
However, when we reached out to the governor’s office, they simply stated that the CDC numbers are wrong.
One wonders how this can be when hospitals are required to report these statistics to the CDC. Since the CDC is government funded, and their primary purpose, as stated in their very name, is disease control, it seems unlikely that their numbers would be wrong. So, if we cannot trust the numbers of the federally funded CDC, how can we be sure we can trust what our own local government is telling us. Either way, something seems off about the whole affair.
It is believed by our government that those who were infected should be safe to return to work now that they are better, because they have antibodies that will protect them from further danger. However, South Korea reports that some of those who had been infected with COVID-19 and overcome the disease are now becoming re-infected.
Iceland, who is not as strict with testing as we are here in the United States, has tested at least 10% of their total population to date. Their numbers show that of those infected, 50% were asymptomatic while still able to infect others. Here in America, those same people would not have been tested at all.
From this information we can assume that having been infected doesn’t automatically make one immune to further dangers from this disease, and there may be many more out there in our country who are capable to continuing to spread the virus without knowing they are doing so.
While making money and keeping our economy healthy is important, there can be no economy without people. Therefore, the health of the people needs to take precedence above all else. Yet, this seems to be the antithesis of our government, as some sites were forced to close this last Friday due to federal funding cuts for Coronavirus testing. It is almost as if, while we are the world leader in not only COVID-19 cases, but also deaths, they are skewing the numbers to give a false sense of security to the people.
In the end, reopening the country, or the state, this coming week may prove to be not only premature, but more detrimental to the overall health of our nation than what we’ve already suffered.