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On Call: Things to Be Thankful For

Wed, 11/18/2020 - 16:35
Among the things to be thankful for, Dr. Joshua Potter writes, is "that the mechanics of this pandemic and our response to it gave health care systems invaluable breathing room between peaks of local infection in which to rest after the harrowing nightmare of dealing with the first Covid-19 surge and to plan for the next."
Durell Godfrey

With Thanksgiving next week, my thoughts turn, as do those of so many others, to the things for which I am grateful. There are many items on this list, particularly what I am grateful for as a physician, but right now, so many of them are related in some way, shape, or form to Covid-19. In light of the coming holiday, I wanted to share some of these here.

I am grateful every time I go to the grocery store that people wear masks and socially distance, and that for the overwhelming most part, seem to do so without complaint or disruption. Every moment of this keeps someone I know and love safe and takes us one step closer to getting out of all of this.

I'm grateful that the mechanics of this pandemic and our response to it gave health care systems invaluable breathing room between peaks of local infection, and that this breathing room gave us the opportunity to rest after the harrowing nightmare of dealing with a Covid-19 surge, to accumulate more protective equipment, and to plan for the next peak. Every single person I know who worked through the surge here in New York in March, April, and May of this year came out of the experience exhausted and, in most cases, with new emotional scars and trauma to carry. Anything we can do to mitigate that and lower the risk of its happening again is a good thing.

I'm grateful that this past week brought the exciting news that two pharmaceutical companies working on vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, have announced effectiveness of approximately 90 and 94 percent respectively in preventing Covid-19 infection. Clearly there are many questions to answer with regard to the specifics of disseminating and storing the vaccine, details of whom to prioritize in terms of vaccination, how to dovetail social distancing and mask mandates with vaccination rates, and all the myriad logistics therein. Moreover, we need to examine the vaccine trials from these companies and others with the proverbial fine-tooth comb to ensure safety and utility, but over all, this news feels like the first rays of a bright morning sun after a long, cold night.

Most particularly, I'm grateful for these things because case numbers across the country are climbing at an alarming rate. It took just six days for the total cases here in the United States to climb from 10 to 11 million, which is astounding. And while we are still relatively low in terms of comparative numbers locally, our positivity rate here on the East End of Long Island is climbing as well. If this all presages a second wave locally, I am grateful for the chance to have rested, learned, and prepared.

As many of my friends, family, neighbors, and patients sit down over the next week to celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope they too take the time to be grateful, and that they express that gratitude by not going to large indoor gatherings to celebrate because we know unequivocally that such gatherings represent the highest risk for transmission. I hope they remember that missing out on this holiday season with our parents and grandparents is the best way to show gratitude and love for family by keeping them safe.

If we can all do this, then in a few weeks, we can perhaps all be grateful for the fact that we were able to slow down the rising case numbers. It will feel as if the warning cries of all of us who work in health care will have been heeded, and respected, and believed.

And I can think of few things for which to be more grateful this holiday season.


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