By Tia Will
I attended our Zoom Board of Supervisors meeting on 11/17/20. One of the items was an update on COVID-19 in Yolo County. A presentation was given by our new Health Officer,
Dr. Aimee Bisson. Dr. Bisson presented a crisp, concise, and easily understood report along with her recommendations. This was followed by public comment and supervisor questions and commentary.
Dr. Bisson’s recommendations have been widely published, but do not seem to have universal public support. These recommendations are:
- Get a flu shot
- Don’t gather indoors with those outside your household
- Confine gatherings with others to outside, distanced by 6ft, masked, no more than 3 households and no more than 16 individuals
- Remain distanced even outside
- Use masks when outside your home.
- Cleanse hands frequently
- Stay home if symptomatic (except as advised).
- Test if symptomatic
The title of this article is a direct quote from Supervisor Provenza. It was one of the three comments that for me defined the essence of this item. It is not only a plea for personal responsibility in following the above guidelines. It is also an acknowledgement that our community, at least on the county level, has not been successful in our efforts to curb viral spread through adherence to these recommendations.
The second quote, also from Supervisor Provenza was: “The primary goal is to save lives.” This statement would seem to me to be self- evident, but unfortunately some members of our community do not seem to share this priority, or fail to make the connection between saving lives and the economic health of our businesses and community as a whole. A healthy economy is going to be dependent on those who spend money being willing to go outside their homes. As the numbers of cases and deaths rise, the willingness to participate in usual shopping, dining and entertainment patterns decreases. A healthy economy is dependent on a health citizenry with money to spend.
The final of my memorable quotes from the meeting came from Dr. Sisson. She said:
“Now is the highest risk time for COVID-19 in Yolo County.” She is right. Our numbers have risen dramatically since the decision was made to loosen the restrictions. We now are back at the numbers of cases that we had after we prematurely opened in April/May. We were at 22 county deaths when we opened after our initial shutdown. We are now at 70 deaths. In addition to these numbers we are facing a triad of problems. We are moving into colder weather which drives people inside, the tradition of gathering in large groups for Thanksgiving and the same tradition for Christmas. This brings me to several thoughts about other steps we could be taking to help stem the spread.
First, we could be more proactive in our communications with all inhabitants of the county. One practice adopted by several adjacent counties is the use of our county emergency notification system to alert residents of the move from the red to purple tiers with the associated restrictions. Concern was expressed about “overuse of this system”, however, I am hard put with the possible exception of flooding or fire, to think of a more appropriate time to notify the public of a major danger and the mitigating steps they are encouraged to take.
Second, until now, the county has been relying largely on the honor system combined with education and communication. I heartily agreed with these as the first line approach. I considered these reasonable first steps at the beginning of restrictions. However, I would point out these have been our go-to for the past 8 months. At the beginning, they could have been considered proactive. Eight months into the worse pandemic of our lives, I can only see them as reactive and inadequate. I strongly urge our individual cities and jurisdictions to use the system of citations and fines we have adopted to underline the seriousness of compliance.
As a third step, I would like to see more information about the lesser known aspects of the disease and the possibility of not yet available mitigating factors that may be on the horizon.
While it is correct that the goal is to save lives, a second consideration is the outcomes of what have been called the long haulers. These are individuals, often younger than those at greatest risk of death, who get what initially appears to be a rather mild case, but then continue to have disabling cardiac, pulmonary and cognitive issues which can be disabling for months. The existence of these cases highlights the error of the common myth among our youth that they should expose themselves and “just get it over with”.
Finally a few words about the future. It was noted that while there may be a light at the end of the tunnel, in the form of vaccines and treatments, we are still deep within the tunnel.
As far as a vaccine, there are now two candidates. Neither have achieved complete testing so the timing of their distribution and the prioritization for various groups is still a ways off. With regard to treatment, we do have approval for the use of monoclonal antibodies. There are however, multiple challenges. This treatment is for those with mild to moderate symptoms. It can only be given IV over the course of one hour with a follow up observation period. While it is technically available, allocation is a major issue with only four treatments allocated to Yolo County to date.
I leave this article with my usual personal recommendations.
- Follow Dr. Bisson’s advice
- Prevention is always more effective and cost effective than treatment or mitigation.
- The county should be less timid and should be using the most proactive legal measures available to us rather than responding reactively.
Tia Will is a retired OB/ GYN and a board member of the Vanguard
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