Dear Fellow Weakley Countians,
We are entering a new phase of our battle with COVID-19. There are a few things that I want to say to you about this new phase.
Thanksgiving gave us a dramatic increase in cases here in Weakley County and across our nation. It is feared that the recent Christmas and New Year’s holidays will do the same. Whether this happens or not, for reasons I will discuss below, it is very important that we now take the steps needed to “flatten the curve.” This means that rather than see continued exponential growth in our numbers over the next few weeks, we need to see these numbers at least leveling off and, preferably, going down.
Why is “flattening the curve” so important now? One reason is that a new variant of the virus has taken hold in the UK and is beginning to be seen here in the US. This variant is seemingly more contagious than our current variety and will thus dramatically increase our numbers if it takes hold here and everything else remains the same. The second is that vaccines are beginning to be administered and therapeutics are improving. One of the reasons to try to “flatten the curve” has always been to delay the time until which large numbers of persons get the disease to buy time for vaccines and better therapeutics to be developed. This will likely prevent large numbers of persons from ever getting the disease, or if they do get it, their prognosis will be improved. Having a large spike of new cases now, when help is on the way, would be a tragedy.
How can we flatten the curve? In this pandemic it always comes down to the fundamentals. These are mask wearing, distancing, hand washing and avoiding crowds. These are to fighting COVID-19 what blocking and tackling are to football. No matter how good we are at other things, we can’t win without being good at the basics. All the countries that have been so much better at stopping the virus than we have simply blocked and tackled better. We can do the same. It is up to us.
We also now have another powerful weapon in this fight. The vaccines have the potential to be real game-changers, if we take them. They have been deemed safe and effective by the people who know. By taking vaccines we can dramatically reduce our likelihood of contracting the virus. This will reduce our spouses’, other family members’ and coworkers’ chances of getting the virus. We will thus reduce the chances for all Weakley Countians of contracting the virus. We can dream of a day when we will be free from the chains of this pandemic.
Some people are reluctant to take the vaccine. Some of these people’s fears are due to myths about the vaccines. These include that the vaccines contain all sorts of things such as microchips; that they will alter our DNA; that they will actually give us the disease and other blatantly-false ideas about the vaccines. Some people’s fears are based on fact. It is a fact that the vaccines were developed at record speed. However, it was not that steps were skipped or shortened, but that some of the steps of development were taken simultaneously, rather than sequentially. We are assured by the people who know and can take as fact that they have been thoroughly tested and have been found to be safe and effective. It is true that when they are given to millions of people rather than 35,000, as-yet-undiscovered, uncommon side effects may come to light. This is possible with any new vaccine or medication. You can be assured that these side effects will be closely watched. All of us who take the vaccine are of course taking a slight risk, but for a huge reward. The alternative to taking it is to live with this pandemic and all the disease, deaths, restrictions, separations and other horrors it has brought us for several more years.
We are all in this together. This disease is affecting all of our lives. I am particularly grieved by people’s loss of loved ones, the loneliness and sense of desertion caused by the inability of people to visit their families in nursing homes and hospitals and even at their homes, for children who are losing parts of their childhoods, and for the poor and unemployed who because of this pandemic face hunger, homelessness and more. We each have to do something to help. We can only prevail to defeat this enemy through solidarity and collective will. Join the ranks of heroes that this crisis has produced. Find the trust and courage that is needed. Take the vaccine!
It is a privilege to call you my neighbor.
Michael Hinds, MD