Dear Weakley County Neighbors,
We are entering a new phase of our battle with COVID-19. Our numbers have risen drastically and now nearly all of us know someone who has had the disease and many of us know people who have died from it. The conditions in our county have become so dire that our county mayor was forced to issue a mask mandate. This required wisdom and courage on his part. At the same time that our numbers are rising so sharply, we are trying to start back our public schools and UT Martin. Also, we can see around the corner another flu season approaching. Now is a critical time for us to regain local control of this pandemic.
Though we have a mask mandate, we all know it is difficult to enforce. Therefore, we must police ourselves. And business owners, managers and other persons responsible for places where people might congregate must assure the mandate is enforced in their establishments. There is now, no serious debate about whether masks help or not. The President, Vice President and our Governor are all calling for us to wear masks. The CDC, the head of the National Institute of Health, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the Surgeon General, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, past heads of the CDC and essentially all other credible public health experts believe that mask wearing, social distancing and avoiding crowds are the keys to regaining control of this virus. If we do not improve locally in these areas, our schools may have to close again. UTM students may have to go home again, or we might even face another lockdown.
What a disaster these things would be for our citizens and businesses.
We cannot afford to continue to congregate unless it is completely necessary. Churches, can we put off in-person services for a while in order to protect our children, their teachers and all the rest of us? (Read “How Not to Tempt God During a Plague” by Martin Luther.) Church members: church services are hotbeds for spreading this virus. I urge you to refrain from attending in-person church services long enough to break the current surge in cases here. If we can do this for a while, we will give our schools a better chance of starting safely.
Earlier I mentioned the upcoming flu season. If we do not get our local COVID epidemic under control by then, we will be in trouble. If both diseases are raging this winter it will be impossible for practitioners like me to keep potential COVID patients out of our offices because we will not know by a telephone call or telemedicine visit whether a sick person has the flu, COVID-19 or some other illness. Patients, staff and providers will then be at increased peril. In addition, we use the same-type swabs to test for flu and COVID, so that the stress on the supply of these swabs may be even greater than it has been already. Also, hospital and particularly ICU beds may be in short supply.
The time for changing our behaviors is now. Our rewards for doing so will be an increased likelihood that our children can stay in school, that UTM can stay in session and our jobs and businesses can remain intact or return. Also, we will protect our friends and neighbors from disease and death, particularly the most vulnerable.
Do not despair! Help, in the way of better therapeutics and a vaccine is on the way. Science and American ingenuity will eventually tip the scales in our favor in this battle with COVID-19. For now, however, we must do what we can do to avoid unnecessary suffering and death. If we all work together, we can do a lot.
It is a privilege to be your neighbor.
Michael Hinds MD