The front-line fighters against the coronavirus are employees of local health departments, who find their jobs increasingly difficult. People exposed to the virus won’t self-quarantine, or won’t answer the phone if they think the call is from a contact tracer at the health department. And as the pandemic accelerates, health-department employees lose more of their friends and relatives to covid-19. Christian County Health Director Kayla Bebout wrote about the personal and professional aspects of the pandemic on behalf of the department’s 43 employees this week in a letter to news media in Hopkinsville. For the complete letter, in Hoptown Chronicle, click here.
Our staff continues to work overtime to manage the pandemic, track cases, keep up with direct contacts — which can sometimes be in the thousands, and still operate other programs that are essential in our community,” she wrote. “We don’t say this to solicit sympathy or for a pat on the back, but we do see the back story of the pandemic, what’s going on behind the scenes, and personally talk with people who have the virus each day. We report the data, and the public sees the numbers and statistics, but we sometimes forget that each number represents a real person, living a real life, who, in just a moments’ time, has had their world temporarily, sometimes permanently changed because of covid-19.
On a personal level, some of our very own staff have lost aunts, grandmothers and friends to covid-19. We have talked with friends who are restless because they are isolated at home, alone, frustrated, and concerned about their finances because they are missing work. We have staff with parents who are recovering cancer patients who are at an especially high risk for contracting a detrimental case of covid-19. One of our staff even sympathized with a friend who just had a baby. When she delivered, she was positive [for the virus] so she was isolated away from her newborn for days. Could you imagine being a new mother unable to hold your baby?
Marketing Specialist Amanda Sweeney lost her aunt in April to covid-19. “She was in her 80s, and in the Owensboro hospital for days by herself because she couldn’t have visitors,” Sweeney said. “My uncle still tells the story of how lonely she sounded on the phone as she told him, ‘I don’t think I’ll ever be home,’ and she didn’t come home. She died on Easter Sunday.”
Are we telling you these stories to pull at your heart strings? Well, we hope these stories pull on your heart strings. Even if in the grand scheme of numbers, the death toll may seem to be a small percent, these “small percentages” are real people who have died and left very big holes in the hearts of families and communities. These “mild cases” are still people who, although they may feel well, are still isolated at home away from family and friends, while missing work and worrying about how their mortgage will be paid if they don’t return work soon.
So, when we sound like a broken record as we ask you to wear your mask, wash your hands, and social distance, please remember that these simple measures could mean one less case. One less case means someone didn’t lose a loved one. One less case means someone isn’t out of work for days on end and stressing about finances. One less case means that a parent isn’t isolated from her children. One less case, although a small number, is still a huge deal when that small case is you.