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Letter to the Editor: Michael Hinds, M.D.

Dear Fellow Weakley Countians:
On March 10, 2020, there was to be a choir practice in Mount Vernon, Oregon for a community choir practicing for an upcoming festival. The practice was to be held at Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church. At that time, there had been 15 reported cases of COVID-19 in the state of Oregon. The choir director considered canceling the practice but finally decided to go ahead with it. However, only 60 of the 120 choir members attended. Within 20 days, 45 of the 60 had developed symptoms of COVID-19, 28 had tested positive, and two died of COVID-19. None of the members who attended the practice were coughing, sneezing or running fever at the time. Singing is evidently a very effective way of sending the virus from one person’s throat into the air to be inhaled by others.
Here in Weakley County, we are entering a new phase in our battle with the COVID-19 pandemic. In this current phase, government will do less to restrict our activities so we must now take the responsibility of placing prudent restrictions on ourselves. The previous restrictions were very effective, at least as long as citizens were complying.
I believe though, that in my community that we have lost some of our resolve and our caseload has increased significantly. I realize that some of the increase in documented cases may be a function of more testing. For the next phase of our battle with COVID-19, we must continue to be diligent in doing some of the things that we did in this most recent phase. Social distancing, frequent hand-washing, and avoiding large groups is still essential for our own health, our family’s health, and our community’s health.
Call your health care provider if you have: fever, chills, shortness of breath, nausea, a new cough, a new sore throat, new unexplained muscle pain, new headache, or new loss of taste and/or smell. If your shortness of breath is severe, go to the emergency room immediately.
It is still necessary that we cover our mouths and noses when we cough or sneeze. Also as masks proliferate, it is important that we wear them when we go out in the public. I offer four tips on using masks correctly: 1) Cover your mouth and nose with your masks; 2) Do not pull your mask down or off when you talk – this is when you need it the most to prevent spreading the virus to someone else; 3) Do not touch the masks itself with your hands or let it touch any other part of your body, including pulling it down to your neck. When you do this, and then put it back on your mouth and nose, you may be putting virus right where you do not want it. Put on and remove the mask by the straps; 4) Wash your cloth masks in hot water and dry with high heat.
In addition to these things, I want to continue to discourage meeting in groups unless it is very necessary. I know that some churches are still meeting and that others are considering restarting their in-person services. I personally do not believe that these meetings are wise yet and that they will endanger our entire community. We know from recent history that churches have not been spared from tornadoes or mass shootings. Why would we think that the coronavirus would then spare them? In churches, we love to sing hymns. Again, this is an ideal way to spread the virus. If churches and other organizations do decide to congregate, please observe the simple measures of discouraging high-risk persons and those with symptoms that might be due to COVID-19 from attending. Also practice distancing and demand that attendees wear masks.
If we think the battle with COVID-19 is over, we are fooling ourselves. We are still limited in our ability to fight it and though we may have made some progress, we still have a long way to go. We will win this battle – the question is how many causalities will we suffer along the way?
May God bless you and again, it is a privilege to have you as my neighbors. I am fortunate to count myself as a Weakley Countian.
Michael Hinds, M.D.

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