Multiple local and statewide officials ranging from school leaders to health care professionals met at Sequoyah High School last Thursday to discuss the COVID-19 virus.
Their conversations covered both the state in general and the local region and what kind of an affect the virus is having.
The meeting was initiated by Monroe County Mayor Mitch Ingram, who introduced the two guest speakers — Scott Brower, who is the chief of staff for the COVID-19 Unified Command from the governor’s office, along with State Epidemiologist Dr. John Dunn.
“This is around the 40th or so county we have visited across the state over the last five months,” Brower said. “We try to learn everything that is happening in your community and also provide some assistance and information.”
Dunn spoke about the ratings of COVID across the state since its arrival in 2020.
“When COVID first arrived in the state, we began to see some consistency in our rise in patients,” Dunn said. “In May and June we saw an increase in COVID patients, which peaked in July, and since late October, early November we have seen up to about 10% to 11% of patients coming to emergency rooms with a COVID-like illness.”
He noted health care professionals have witnessed an increase in COVID cases since the start of winter.
“We are not seeing what we want to see, we are not seeing a decline in cases. We are continuing to see an increase in cases,” Dunn stated. “The increase is showing for the last part of 2020 and into 2021.”
Brower stated they have spoken to leading health professionals about the virus on a national level.
“One of the things that absolutely jumps out as we are heading into the colder months ... As the weather is driving us inside our behaviors should alter if we expect to gather in a safe manner,” Brower expressed. “We can’t meet the same group sizes inside that we could outside and that is what they (national health professionals) have seen happen. Cases have just exploded in Wisconsin where people were driven inside due to the cold weather earlier in the year and they are on top of each other without altering their behavior.”
Brower also spoke about the effects of COVID fatigue that is affecting the populace at large.
“People are tired of this, but at the end of the day it is still here among us,” said Brower. “It is the reality of today and we have to live with that or you are going to see how precarious this situation is right now.”
One of their major concerns for the virus is how hospitals and other health care providers will be affected during flu season.
“One of our major concerns during this time of year is the addition of influenza,” Dunn noted. “Every year, (influenza) causes a number of hospitalizations and patients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds. We know that has the potential to happen again this year and further tax hospital systems in terms of their ability to provide that type of intensive care for patients with a severe disease.”
Brower stated another disruption caused by COVID is the delay of elective surgeries that he believes could be life saving or extending due to hospitals needing the staff and room for COVID patients.
“It is not just about COVID, it is affecting everything that is going on inside of the hospital systems, such as treating patients who have been in car accidents, heart attacks and everything else,” Brower expressed. “This virus is having a significant impact on the welfare of all of us right now.”