Community Response to Covid-19

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Covid-19

Fact, Fiction, and Saving Lives

This week’s Jamestown Gazette is devoted to public safety and an ancient truth: “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.”

So-called “alternate truths” and rumors concerning Covid-19 that have been recently found circulating in local communities are becoming dangerous to personal and public health. In response, the Jamestown Gazette this week offers facts that empower local citizens to eliminate or greatly lighten the economic and social strains of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Surprisingly, the solution is patriotism: it starts with the famous American traditions of kindness and respect. (NOTE: Covid and Covid-19 are the same here. The 19 merely means it was discovered in 2019)

Fact: Struggling Local Businesses

Some businesses have been closed by their customers. Business owners pay the full legal penalty when customers mistakenly act like Covid regulations are only suggestions or a matter of personal choice. But out of kindness or fear, many merchants tolerate customers who act on that mistaken opinion.

New York law: “Masks are required to be worn by employers and employees who interact with the public. Masks are required to be worn by the public when entering businesses. Customers can be banned from entering without masks. Masks are also expected when people can’t stay 6 feet apart from those they don’t live with.”

The rumor or “alternate fact” that these are recommended or optional is false. Read the details on local, county, and state websites.
Remember the Yellow Ribbon?

A generation ago, a simple yellow ribbon tied ‘round the old oak tree (remember Tony Orlando and Dawn?) was all it took to say “I love you.”

Today, it’s just a little piece of cloth tied behind a person’s ears for a few minutes that says the same thing. But in a year when nearly 150 thousand Americans have died and more than 100 thousand businesses have closed forever, that kindness says “I love you” by saving lives and livelihoods.

That’s clearly the same True American Spirit as rugged individualism and self-determination.

Facts: Local Statistics

As of Thursday, July 9, 2020, Chautauqua County has recorded 153 total confirmed cases; 127 recovered cases; 7 deaths; and 17,411 negative test results. With deepest sympathy for those who have died, and for their families, these statistics are, in other ways, good news.

Health officials make two observations. Credit for the low incidence is more related to compliance with regulations than ignoring them, and complacency is now one of the greatest dangers.

Fact: Just a Flu?

Both seasonal influenza and Covid-19 do belong to the family of corona viruses, and so do some varieties of the common cold, but they are not the same. By analogy, a tiger and a lion are both cats, but they make terrible house pet. The comparison between Covid and flu is that simple.

The statistics also make the point. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, cdc.gov/flu), “influenza [in the U.S.] has resulted in between 9 million and 45 million illnesses… and between 12,000 and 61,000 deaths annually since 2010. That is less than ½ of one percent fatality, which is still too high.

Concerning Covid, in the United states, so far, just over 3.05 million cases have been confirmed, but those have resulted in more than 135 thousand deaths, and the pandemic is far from over.

Covid is 4.4 percent fatal. That makes Covid at least dozens of times more deadly than the flu, and unlike the flu, there is no Covid vaccine, yet. Covid is not even similar to the flu. And a 95.5 winning (recovery) percentage might be great at a poker table, but something else to think about when the stakes are life and death.

Facts: Testing

New York State testing sites offer free Covid-19 testing, but according to Shelly S. Wells, RN, Public Health Planner at Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services, those sites are not in Chautauqua County, the closest being in Buffalo at 716-753-4312. Some private sites, however, are reportedly accepting insurance as payment-in-full. To learn more about free NYS sites, visit coronavirus.health.ny.gov/covid-19-testing, or call 1-888-364-3065.

According to Chautauqua County website, chqgov.com, “Covid-19 infection testing is available with an order from your physician at UPMC Chautauqua’s Jones Hill campus, and at The Chautauqua Center’s Jamestown and Dunkirk locations, and at Westfield Memorial Hospital. Covid-19 infection and antibody testing is available at the WellNow Urgent Care Centers in Jamestown, Lakewood, and Dunkirk, but wait times are variable. Call first.

Many insurance plans have reopened for enrollment to ease the financial burden of testing, and some offer a “$ Zero premium” plan. To learn more, call 855-355-5777 or visit https://nystateofhealth.ny.gov./

In Cattaraugus County, according to the county website, “Testing is available for anyone who would like to be tested for Covid regardless if they are symptomatic.”

The City of Warren, PA, offers lengthy and detailed guidance in all aspects of Covid pandemic related issues at cityofwarrenpa.gov/.

All persons with symptoms of Covid are encouraged to contact their healthcare provider and get tested for Covid. All essential workers with or without symptoms can also request to be tested per updated CDC and state guidelines,” though they will need a physician’s order.

Facts: Symptoms and Russian Roulette

Russian Roulette is loading a 6-shooter with only one bullet, spinning the barrel, aiming at your head, and pulling the trigger. Covid Roulette is not wearing a mask and not social distancing. Except the Covid gun is aimed at the people around you.

As many as 20 to 40 percent of people who contract Covid have few or no symptoms, according to the 6/1/2020 daily briefing by advisory.com. As a result, fatality may be lower than estimated. But unfortunately, even people with no symptoms will actively spread the virus for more than a week and never know who they infect. This is one of the uniquely dangerous factors about Covid.

Historians remember the restaurant cook, Mary Brown, later named &”Typhoid Mary,” who in the early 1900s sickened more than 50 people with typhoid, three of whom died, yet was never sick herself.

People unknowingly infected will be vulnerable people. Those include cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or immunocompromised for any other reason, diabetics, people with high blood pressure, the elderly, many others, and some totally healthy people of any age who for unknown reasons are highly susceptible to Covid.

Fake Fact: Only Old Folks

The notion that only the elderly are vulnerable is inaccurate. The recent spike in Covid cases is composed mostly of younger individuals who received the wrong information and did not believe evidence to the contrary as it developed, or simply chose to ignore it. While symptoms may be milder and survival rates higher, the higher mobility of the younger population makes them more dangerous as virus spreaders. Covid victims of all ages have died.

The most serious complications are seen in small children. Though rare, a highly fatal over-reaction of a child’s immune system to Covid can cause a condition similar to Kawasaki disease. Parents are strongly advised to visit cdc.gov/kawasaki/index.html. A mask might save your child’s life.

With Covid, “healthy” people can kill other people. That’s Covid Roulette. That game is un-American, unkind, and uncaring. It’s not the Yellow Ribbon Americans are famous for.

Fact: Terror in the Streets

Some highly vulnerable fellow citizens are now terrified to shop for food or even go to a pharmacy for life-saving prescriptions. The true expression of American freedoms and liberty is to tolerate a little inconvenience or discomfort for the sake of the weaker among us. The United States Constitution does not guarantee Darwinian survival of only the fittest citizens.

“If you think you can’t get Covid-19, you are wrong,” said Christine Schuyler, Chautauqua County Public Health Director. “If you make good choices, you minimize your risk of getting the virus; you also minimize the risk of passing the virus on to others if you do get it. Please use common sense and good judgement.”

Fact: A Safe Discomfort

Automobile seat belts were once thought of as limiting an American’s civil liberties. But as of 2019, 90 percent of American drivers now buckle up, saving 15,000 lives each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Similar “discomforts” concerning second-hand smoke (tobacco control measures saved 22 million lives in the first six years after adoption according to research at Georgetown University Medical Center) and crash helmets (1,500 motorcyclists and bikers saved each year) set the balance right between “rights” and safety.

The discomfort of distancing and masks is undeniable. But for most Americans personal comfort has never outweighed public safety. Few People doubt that. If American soldiers will risk death for their fellow citizens, citizens across America are naturally choosing brief discomfort to save lives.

Except for the most severely challenged patients struggling with late-stage chronic lung disease or other severe illness or psychological disorder, most people are finding that with some preparation, mask discomfort is tolerable when compared to the risks of Covid Roulette.

Life-Saving Fact: New Opportunity

As Covid-19 resurges due to the behavior of uninformed citizens, it is the local, state, and national leadership who gain a new opportunity to model the truly American spirit of compassion, wisdom, and actions fueled by facts. Covid knows no politics, age, or status. It is an equal-opportunity enemy to all.

And by the way. Who really needs a law, rule, or a regulation to save their own life or somebody else’s? When the house is on fire, nobody inside waits to be told what to do.

A recent ad campaign says, “When you are part of a community, caring is what you do.”

The Jamestown Gazette urges all of our readers to tie that yellow ribbon ‘round the old oak tree once more. Tie that little piece of cloth around your ears and say “I care about you” to every other American living up to the highest standards of good sense and patriotism.

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.