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A little ingenuity and adhering to guidelines can keep your family and patients safe this holiday season.
I do not have coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and the relief is immense. But I am sick. Yes, people still get sick during a pandemic. Let us just say that it makes you look at the world a little differently than you normally do.
My symptoms included a cough and chest pain, so my doctor recommended a COVID-19 test. It sounded unpleasant, but I can handle that. They gave me a website address and instructions to schedule a test. That was the first challenge when you are so ill you cannot do it. I had to have a friend schedule me while I sat on the phone in the parking lot, overwhelmed from being so ill. The next day, I drove to the site and sat in line in my car. I followed the signs. It was quite an experience. An hour later, I showed my ID against the driver’s side window so they could confirm my doctor’s order for the test. Then, the window came down, and the nurse swabbed me. My doctor would receive the results 24 hours later.
When done, I had an ethical dilemma. There were errands I wanted to run on the way home. Yes, I literally struggled with that for a couple of minutes. Here, I got a COVID-19 test and thought I was special and could not possibly get the virus. But, I chose to behave like a responsible adult and went home. My husband could pick up my medications later. What was wrong with me to even think, as sick as I was, that I could go and possibly expose others to whatever I had?
Why I am sharing this? It does not exactly portray me in the best light, but it is important. I am human, and you are too. But what you are doing matters for everyone, including your patients, family, and the public. How often have you had a cold or even an elevated temperature, taken acetaminophen (Tylenol), and gone to the dental office? I have done that. To be totally transparent, I have also plugged my kids with Tylenol and sent them to daycare so I could get to work. But times have changed. You cannot do that—in the age of COVID-19, it is truly unconscionable.
The problem is that some of us are really in a rough place. Many are surviving paycheck to paycheck and do not make enough income to go beyond our sick days. As a social worker, I saved my sick days for when my kids got sick. It is the price I had to pay to keep everything afloat. When it became too much of a challenge, their dad or my parents would step up for childcare. Now, that cannot happen. It could be a matter of life and death for a family member or a patient.
So, what are you supposed to do? I really wish there was a silver bullet. When I started writing for the dental industry in 2010, I was asked to write “care for the caregiver” articles. Consultants had voiced concern about what dental practices were going to do when an employee had to take time off to take a loved one to the doctor or to chemotherapy. Now, this issue is even more intense. How is your practice going to manage as we go into the winter and the COVID-19 numbers are rising? What will happen if someone gets ill in your practice? These are scary questions to think about, but we need to.
We are all suffering from pandemic fatigue. But it’s still important to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations and local government recommendations regarding travel or having family celebrations.
I do miss being with my extended family, but it’s not worth the risk. Consider other ways you can be together and celebrate without putting your health at risk. For example, we planned a potluck Thanksgiving. Each household had instructions as to what it would cook. Then, we would meet at a parking lot and have 4 prepackaged bags of food ready for the other households. Then, you took your bags of food, went home, warmed it up, and sat down for a Zoom dinner. This way, we could all eat the same food and be together. No, it is not the same as being under the same roof but we were able to enjoy the company and we kept safe.
Look at what you are planning for the holidays. Step up and be creative.
I continue to deal with my bronchitis and I’m grateful that it is not COVID-19. It has opened my eyes in so many ways. Be grateful that you have your health. Be grateful that you have your family of choice and creation. Do not take it for granted. Do not look for a way to cheat the system and focus on what you want while putting others at risk. Do the right thing. Stay home. Be creative. Stay connected. But most importantly, stay alive.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and share with me what your plans are to stay safe during this holiday season.