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Unmasked: Part 1 – Health care facilities

The Tryon Daily Bulletin is featuring a seven-part series on the impact of Covid-19 and government restrictions in the Foothills. This series of articles will focus greatly on the opinions of small business owners, local families, churches, health care facilities, schools, etc., and whether they believe government restrictions had a harsher impact than the pandemic itself due to unintended consequences. Its intent is to allow readers to determine if the measures taken to reduce the spread of Covid-19 has taken a greater toll on our community than the virus itself.

 

CEO of St. Luke’s Hospital in Columbus Michelle Fortune calls Covid-19 a puzzle what with its long list of various symptoms, political facets, and the fact that doctors and scientists are still continuing to learn more about this deadly virus.  

She says, “Viruses, in general, are more predictable in their impact and often more severe in the elderly and those with significant health issues.” However, Fortune has seen a healthy fifty-year-old become fatally ill with the virus while she has also witnessed a seventy-five-year-old with multiple diseases suffer from Covid-19 with no more than a runny nose.

“This virus is most certainly very harsh and worthy of great concern,” Fortune says.

Some individuals consider Covid-19 and the Flu virus to be similar or even the same, calling the Flu more deadly than Covid-19. With much consideration of and experience with this topic, Fortune says that comparing the Flu and Covid-19 is much like comparing apples to oranges because Covid-19 symptoms vary so greatly, and the virus is so new to us.  

With the information currently given about the virus, Fortune believes Covid-19 is more dangerous than the Flu for a few reasons.

“Medically and scientifically, Covid-19 was a complete unknown, and we are now scrambling to understand how it reacts and how we may best fight it; Our immune systems have not experienced the assault of Covid-19 before now, so it is a brand-new fight for our bodies; The severe and unpredictable natures of this virus have been dramatic and difficult to treat,” she says.

Fortune shares some statistics of John’s Hopkin’s University website, which states that between January 2020 and mid-March 2021, 584,000 deaths have been recorded from Covid-19 in the US. It also states that during that same period, more than 2.5 million people have died world-wide.  

She goes on to share that the World Health Organization estimates that between 290-650 thousand people worldwide die from the flu annually.  

“I believe without restrictions to reduce the spread, the virus would have been much, much worse in its physical impact to many,” she says, though she acknowledges that restrictions did impact people across the US in other ways, affecting unemployment, isolation and depression.

She adds, “Had [St. Luke’s Hospital] not had the restrictions in place and taken a conservative approach as was required, our team members may have gotten sick in large numbers and diminished our ability to care for the community. Most important is how to move forward together in a safe way acknowledging the many, many losses we have all experienced,” Fortune says.

Mayor of Tryon Alan Peoples experienced first-hand the government restrictions at White Oak of Tryon when his wife broke both her ankles. She stayed at St. Luke’s Hospital for nearly the entire month of December 2020 when her doctor informed Peoples that she would need to be transferred to White Oak to begin her healing phase. White Oak, however, requires a fourteen-day quarantine with each new patient or resident to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Peoples said, “I had made up my mind she wasn’t going to White Oak Rehab. I wasn’t going to let them quarantine her. But as it turns out, the doctor told me my wife had healed a lot faster than they thought, so they released her home.”

He says that he doesn’t disagree with White Oak’s restrictions, but he would not allow his wife to go through them, though he believes White Oak is doing a great job handling the pandemic.

“You have to protect people,” he says, “but at what cost?”

With him and his wife juggling the strict Covid-19 restrictions in 2020, Peoples considers the government restrictions as being too restrictive, partially because they hurt businesses, but the main reason being what the restrictions have been doing to the community children.

“I recommend people following health care officials’ guidelines, but how many times have they changed the guidelines? They leave people confused and untrusting if they keep changing the guidelines,” Peoples says.  After dealing with the possibility of his injured wife being quarantined, he was left wondering whether the virus has been politicized.

A Columbus retirement facility nurse, who requested anonymity, felt as though the restrictions taken to reduce the spread took a toll on the mental health of patients, although the nurse believes some general precautions should certainly have been made.

The nurse claims she has a hard time watching the residents be so isolated because of the restrictions imposed on them. Residents have to stay in their rooms but are allowed to participate in a limited number of activities.

“I feel like all the restrictions are worse on the residents’ mental health than the chance of the virus is,” the nurse said. “For the good of everyone, I think there should be laws against the visitation rules because these residents are stuck in their rooms, and some don’t understand why they can’t have visitors due to their dementia.”

The nurse goes on to say, “That should be a violation of their basic human rights.”

The retirement center requires residents and employees to wear masks, and all employees are tested weekly for the virus but are unable to work if they are experiencing any Covid-19 symptoms. The nurse believes some government restrictions were necessary to prevent the spread of the virus such as all the extra sanitation, the reduction of crowds and social distancing.  

“In general, the precautions we’re taking are precautions we should always take during flu season.” said the nurse. Overall, they believe that the measures taken to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in health care facilities were more destructive in some cases than the threat of the virus.

A dentist in Landrum, who has requested anonymity stated, “I see why the government took such actions [to prevent the spread of Covid-19], but a year later, it appears the virus ran its course no matter what restrictions were placed.”

In addition, the dentist recalls that the original goal was not to prevent every person from getting the virus but to flatten the curve of the spread. The dentist claims that had he been in the SC governor’s position, he would have reopened schools as normal last fall semester because “Wearing a mask does not make you healthy. Being healthy makes you healthy. This virus has only taken advantage of the huge health problem we have with obesity, heart disease and diabetes.”

They claimed the measures taken to prevent the spread of Covid-19 were undoubtedly more harmful to the community than the virus itself, though he says, “Only history will know.”

Dentist says that some elderly people who have dementia and Alzheimer’s were put on lockdown due to government restrictions which seemed to worsen their disease. Also, they believe under government restrictions, children were forced to have insufficient education despite teachers’ best efforts.

“The community has been divided due to toxic political discourse exacerbated by not being able to see another person’s smile outside of your household. Behind every mask is a soul,” the dentist says with an overall opinion that government restrictions had a more damaging impact than Covid-19 did on the community. 

The overall opinion of the CEO of St. Luke’s Hospital is that Covid-19 restrictions were needed in the community to help minimize the spread of the virus; and mayor of Tryon, a local retirement facility nurse and a Landrum dentist about whether government Covid-19 restrictions did more harm than good, each leaned more towards “harm.”

The following six articles in the Covid-19 Unmasked series will continue to share the subjective opinions of individuals in the community. In the April 11 edition of the Bulletin, we will feature the various perspectives and statistics of Covid-19 from educators in local schools.

By Macy Cochran