Dane County has reported more than 4,000 new cases of coronavirus over the past two weeks. Health experts said fatigue may be a contributing factor, and remind residents to take precaution.
“I think we’re all reaching our wit’s end trying to navigate this year,” said Dr. Kyle Martin, an ER physician at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison. “I wish there was a magic answer. But it’s really these tried-and-true basic measures that we need to rely on until we get a vaccine.”
Having worked in emergency medicine 18 years, Martin stressed the importance of handwashing as means to prevent infection. He said doing so protects not only oneself, but those around you.
Facial coverings have helped him throughout the course of his career as well.
“Masks are key,” Martin said. “There are a number of studies that demonstrate that. You don’t know it, but when you’re talking, microscopic droplets are expectorating from your mouth. They can travel up to six feet, and that’s one of the primary ways that this virus is being transmitted.”
Waunakee Area EMS Director Scott Russell said face masks are used by responders for a reason. Only one member of his staff has contracted the virus, and did so outside of work.
He cited the fact as proof that personal protective equipment (PPE) is effective.
“About 50 to 60 percent of the patients that we transport are coming back positive for COVID-19,” Russell said. “And we haven’t had a single exposure here. So the PPE and safety measures are proven to work. It’s just a matter of getting people to comply with them as much as possible.”
Russell said noncompliance presents a risk to the entire community, especially those who reside in the WAEMS district. He explained that the department operates a skeleton staffing model.
Losing a member to quarantine could leave the district down an ambulance.
Russell added that recent observations have left his staff more concerned about contracting the virus from community members in public than they are from the sick patients whom they treat.
“It’s probably safer for us to go on an EMS call than it is to go to the grocery store,” Russell said. “We have a very strong set of policies in place for PPE and membership protection that’s actually pretty safe…whereas at the grocery store, you don’t really know what’s coming in and out.”
President of St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, Kyle Nondorf said doctors are equally concerned.
“Healthcare workers are doing a phenomenal job right now,” Nondorf said. “But the concern with a lot of healthcare workers is, they’re seeing a lot of sick patients come in. And they’re seeing an increase in hospitalizations. With that and the community spread, even healthcare workers are getting exposed at times, which puts a further crunch on our workforce.”
The hospital administrator reminded residents of the need to socially distance, practice good hand hygiene and wear a mask at all times when out in public.
“If we come together and we do a good job of putting some mitigation strategies in place,” Nondorf said, “that will help reduce some of the spread that we’re seeing right now. We remain optimistic and hopeful that, at some point, there’s going to be a vaccine. But until that happens, we all – from a community standpoint – have to do our part.”
Nondorf encouraged everyone to get a flu shot as early as possible.