Friday, March 27, 2020

Tucson, AZ: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 6: Fissures

Near Mora, New Mexico. August 2013.

Within a 48-hour period, I learned that:

A niece's husband has been laid off.

My daughter works in a business considered an essential service, so (good news!) she still has a job, but (unfortunately!) her employer has not set things up for remote work, so there is daily exposure among co-workers for potential infection.

In Tucson, a friend (and all of her co-workers) abruptly lost their jobs. Two weeks of severance plus any accumulated personal time off (PTO). Bang. Done.

In New Orleans, a friend's daughter has been ill with the crown for two weeks, going on her third. She's feeling better. She's isolating at home. She works(ed) in health care and a co-worker had the virus.

In Missouri, a friend and her sister were hospitalized on Monday (March 23) and placed in isolation. My friend, "Cherry," suffers an underlying condition that has rendered her already physically fragile, with chronic pain, and easily fatigued, even by talking on the phone or writing. On Wednesday morning, when talking with a mutual friend, Cherry continued to feel very weak from the new infection, and couldn't speak for long. Tests have come back positive for the virus.  Inexplicably, the hospital discharged Cherry and her sister on Thursday (March 26), and they made their way to a relative's house, over an hour away, for self-isolation.

The sisters became ill in one county, hospitalized in another, and are now in a third for isolation. Whether or not the hospital reported the confirmed test results to any of the county health departments is in question. Or if the hospital or any public health entity informed the extended stay hotel where the sisters had been staying, so that their staff might be made aware.

Caution: Although my information comes from mutual friends who have direct contact with Cherry or the local health care system, it's possible - even likely - there are variables that are unknown to any of us, and which make my narrative flawed. 

Here is the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control's infographic for hospital discharge criteria. Two criteria are two consecutive negative results and the lessening of symptoms.

Magical thinking

Based on what I have heard about my friend's situation, it suggests there is a grave lack of coordination between hospitals and public health entities. At least in some communities or some states. And even though they are not yet in one of the red zones, such as NYC.

I share this story because there are some folks who seem to take a city, county, or state's minimal infection numbers as accurate - or close to accurate. Or we hold unrealistic confidence in systems that work smoothly in fair weather, but are not equipped for a hurricane, even though we "know" it's headed our way.

To me, this is magical thinking.

We've got to "act as if" community spread has already occurred in our community, notwithstanding its size or population density.

And don't get me wrong - plenty of smart, capable, experienced, well-educated women and men are on the job! They are working their asses off. They are not stupid!

However, I've observed over the years that intelligence, training, and experience are not reliable indicators for effectiveness, especially in a crisis. Often, an ability to quickly assess a situation and then timely execute on same - that's the key.  Like this guy in Bristow, Oklahoma.

I hope, as COVID-19 continues to unfold, that I acquit myself well as a responsible and supportive member of several community circles. I'm already doing some things of support for others (including, of course, keeping to home most days and social distancing when I do go out), but I will do more.

Recently, I've come to realize there are some forms of action I'm not good at.

On one hand, this grieves me because I wish I were good at them. On the other hand, there are kinds of action I am good at. So as COVID unfolds, it's useful for me to understand this, to go with my strengths, and, therefore, be more effective for others.

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