Monday, June 1, 2020

Facing COVID-19 in the long run: a resident's view

- Enkhee Tuvshintogs, MD, AFP Resident Representative

“The county has been cleared to open up restaurants and stores this week.”

We are three months into adjusting to life with COVID-19. Our day-to-day routine for the foreseeable future has drastically changed. As much as I held out hope, like everyone else, for a return to normalcy, I have accepted that the virus will be a part of life, as ubiquitous as the flu but more deadly. We will continue to take extra precautions to protect our families and work in clinics and hospitals to keep COVID-19 at bay.

I don’t deny sometimes feeling apathetic, but just when I do, I hear cases like this: “A friend came to visit me; we hung at my house, and a week later I received a phone call that I really didn’t want to get. My friend tested positive. I am here to get tested because I am concerned I was exposed. I have no symptoms. What should I do? Should I tell others I might have it? Should I tell them to get tested too? How long should I wait?”

Variations of this conversation occur again and again as counties and states open up. Patients come to us after isolating for months at home, only to be exposed by a single visit. I understand the angst, loneliness, and frustration that they overcame to reach this point. Their adherence to “stay-at-home orders” was evident in the slowed rate of rise of COVID-19 across the country.

By staying at home and taking precautions, people gave businesses and health systems time to better prepare and restructure operations to limit in-person contact. Now, as more places open up and people come into contact, questions and concerns regarding cases of COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 related medical issues will rise. I see people trying their best to balance their mental health needs with the reality of the risks of COVID-19. Most keep their masks on. When people meet, they stay outdoors and try to keep away from enclosed spaces.

How can we manage the built-up demand for health care while the threat of COVID-19 still stalks clinics and hospitals? Telemedicine will likely be at the forefront. At our residency clinic, video visits outnumber in-person visits now. Other clinics, like the one where Dr. Erika Roshanravan works, have added telephone visits. “People love it! It makes sense. It is more convenient for people. There are still visits that we have to do in-person” but there are now more options and avenues for patients to reach us, she says.

As the weather warms, we will all be called outdoors to barbeque pits, lush grass fields, glistening waters, and a longing to feel “normal” again. I want people to enjoy themselves, but I also want everyone to stay safe. When you need care, whether for a routine medical problem or COVID-19 related concern, I will still be here: ready with my face shield, mask, gown and gloves to help and serve you. I can’t promise that we have all the answers yet, but we will try our best. As we move forward into in a brave new COVID world, I hope that my friends, family, and neighbors will continue to act in ways that do not increase the risks to the most vulnerable among us. As Dr. Roshanravan says, “this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”