To my dear community of patients,
This post is a bit longer than normal, but I would really appreciate it if you took 5–10 minutes of your time to read through.
As our country approaches the once-unthinkable threshold of 300,000 COVID-19 deaths, experts fear the country is hurtling nonstop toward the next milestone of surpassing the total of American fatalities in World War II – even as vaccines are on the way. And as of Sunday, 12/13/20 with 1,115 deaths in Oregon, I feel the need to speak up, both for your safety and mine. I need you all to help me so that I may continue to help and support you.
Oregon hospitals have been ramping up for a possible devastating increase of COVID-19 positive patients following Christmas and New Year’s Eve travel and gatherings, as well as the surge that happened due to Thanksgiving travel and gatherings – despite being highly recommended against.
Surge tents have been set up–and continue to be set up–at Portland-area hospitals and refrigerated trailers have been brought in as makeshift morgues. It appears we’re anticipating a surge like last Spring’s surge in New York, and that is sobering.
Every time a patient comes in to see me, we are both taking a risk. We’re each trusting the other has been wearing a mask, hand washing, socially distancing, staying at home, keeping to their social bubble, and most of all, hoping they are COVID-negative. We’re also hopeful the people we’ve encountered daily in stores, at work, and on the street have been playing it safe.
I would not ordinarily share this, but the times we are in are unique to say the least. I have several serious underlying health conditions that I manage, but that put me in the category of the very most vulnerable. I don’t want to catch COVID-19 and will avoid it any way I can. Also as some of you are aware, I contracted SARS in 2003 and almost died. I take COVID-19 incredibly seriously.
I’m doing my best to provide a safe office environment for patients and myself:
- Improved air flow: I’ve upgraded my HVAC system, invested in high efficiency air-filtration/exchange units for every room in the clinic. I open my sliding glass doors between patients to allow for even greater air exchange.
- Intensive cleaning: I clean each room and all high touch surfaces after every treatment. The bathroom is sanitized daily.
- Constant protective gear: I wear two masks and a face shield while at the clinic. By the way, a face shield is never a substitute for an appropriately fitting face mask. Note that medical professionals are wearing double masks under their face shield.
- Hand washing/sanitizing: I wash my hands repeatedly before, during, and after treatments, as well as use hand sanitizer between washes.
My only mask-free, non-distanced interactions are with my husband. Other than that, my entire “risk budget” is spent seeing my patients. My social bubble is my husband and my cat Gilligan. That’s appropriate!
I have become aware over the months of some misunderstandings and misinformation that I would like to address in the hope of increased awareness and therefore increased caution.
Misconception #1: When the CDC refers to a “household,” that includes all of my family, even those who don’t live with me.
Your household is defined as those people living under the same roof. That means that your mother and father that do not live with you, or your son or daughter that do not live with you, or your very best friend, are not part of your household, and therefore pose a risk of exposure to COVID-19.
CDC guidelines state that if meeting with anyone outside of your household:
- If inside, everyone should be wearing a mask and the number of people gathering should be limited to 6 or fewer.
- If outside, everyone should be socially distancing and if that is not possible, wearing masks.
Being family, if they don’t live within your home, doesn’t mean they are “safe”– no matter how careful they tell you they have been. Gatherings with people outside your home are the major driving force of the spread of the virus.
I know this is difficult and everyone wants to be with their loved ones, especially during the holidays. But it is important to understand the risks you are taking. I care about my patients and their families!
To help understand the invisible risk associated with spending time with people outside your household, here is a visual to communicate the unseen consequences of the social bubble — it’s bigger than you think!
Misconception #2: Babies and young children cannot get or transfer the virus.
No matter how many times you hear it, this is blatantly untrue. Babies and young children can be carriers of the virus, though they are likely to be asymptomatic or have very minor symptoms. It is currently believed that up to 50% of the spread of COVID is due to asymptomatic transmission. So what that means is that young children can infect other people, even though they show no symptoms. If you have young children attending in-person school or childcare, you need to understand that there is risk. That risk can affect you and others. Exponential ripple effect. Again please refer to the above diagram.
Gold Standards of Prevention and Care
It’s worth repeating that masking, social distancing, hand washing, and minimizing contact with people outside your household are still the gold standards of prevention and care during this pandemic. I encourage all of you to adhere to these guidelines, both for your health and the health of everyone you come into contact with, including those you love and care for. And including me. 🙂
I am currently asking all patients to double-mask. As a courtesy to me and other patients, please wear masks that fit snugly over your face and will stay in place during appointments. It should cover both your nose and mouth comfortably and securely, and require minimal adjustment if any. If you have to constantly push it back in place, it is not protecting you or me.
The following video demonstrates the airborne transmission aspect of the virus. Click the image below to view the video.
Please Read this List of Requests
If any of the following apply to you, please contact me as soon as possible, especially before your next appointment:
- If you are planning on attending holiday gatherings with people outside your immediate household or social bubble (and I ask you to please reconsider).
- These people may include children, grandkids, parents, other relatives and/or friends who don’t live with you.
- If you do attend and you plan on scheduling an appointment, please let me know and allow at least ten days between that contact and your next appointment.
- If you have tested positive for COVID-19 and have an upcoming scheduled appointment
- If you have symptoms of an illness or even a suspicion of illness, and have an upcoming scheduled appointment
- If you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, whether you test positive or not, and have an upcoming scheduled appointment
- If I treat you within ten days of developing symptoms of COVID-19, testing positive for it or suspecting you were exposed to it
- If you regularly spend time in a location outside your home where people don’t wear masks and don’t socially distance
- These locations include work places, churches, restaurants, bars, gyms, and social gatherings, to name a few.
Again, if any of the above apply to you, please contact me as soon as possible. All of these situations put both of us at increased risk.
If you are spending time in a social bubble with people outside your home, please be very careful. I know two people with bubble mates who visited outside their bubbles. These bubble mates were exposed to COVID-19 by individuals during their “out of bubble experience,” putting the people in their own bubble at risk. Each of the people I know had to self-quarantine for two weeks and be tested twice before they could return to their regular activities.
I know that people are encouraged by recent vaccine news. It brings hope of the time when we can begin to return to normal life. However, we are months away from vaccines being widely available to the general public.
In the meantime, we need to do what we can with our available resources to keep COVID-19 in check. So hold on, keep wearing masks and social distancing, and please reconsider any holiday gatherings.
I love my work and adore you, my patients.
I believe all of us are caring people and concerned for everyone’s welfare. I appreciate everyone’s continued efforts to stay healthy and help others do the same. I just felt the need to voice my concerns, to reinforce good practice of personal safety, and to restate the parameters I hope we’re all striving toward during this pandemic.
Until we are vaccinated, our actions are our best protection. Consider changing plans for holiday gatherings so that you CAN celebrate together next year. Think smart, reduce your risks. And may we all stay healthy!
If you think this would be helpful for someone you know, please feel free to share this post with them.
And as always, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone, 971.216.9913.