Leaders, medical professionals: You may be able to save a life

The novel (new) coronavirus that first appeared in 2019 is an entirely new entity for the world to deal with, and new information is being learned about it every day.

We know that humans are the host of the virus, and human-to-human transmission of the virus is the primary mode of spread. It has been made clear that social distancing is the primary means by which transmission can be interrupted.

Our county confirmed our first case of COVID-19 back in March 2020, and for the remainder of March, April and into May, widespread closures on a statewide level kept people at home, and the newness of the threat kept us all diligent about washing our hands and keeping our distance from others. Once restrictions were lifted, we relaxed, and from that point on we have seen the number of new cases increase at a rate that cannot be explained by an increase in testing alone.

Our county has now confirmed more than 1,500 cases of COVID-19 and we have sadly lost at least 17 Pickens County citizens to this disease.

Mitigation of the spread of the virus has become the key focus of both government and civilian entities. Political elements have sidetracked the response to COVID-19 in many cases. The most difficult task decision-makers at various levels of governance face with their response to this virus is developing a balance of maintaining people’s physical and mental health and their financial health as well.

While we know that widespread closures are not financially sustainable for long periods of time, how can we continue to slow the spread now that we are “open” again? In addition to hand washing and social distancing, face masks have been another means by which transmission can be curtailed.

Masks are a point of contention for many people. Myths have surrounded their use, but a properly fitting homemade cloth mask or a commercially made mask can keep an individual who has the virus but is asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic from spreading it to others.

Wearing a mask effectively prevents potentially virus-infected respiratory droplets from your mouth and nose from traveling as far as they would without that barrier. It is true that wearing a mask does more to protect your neighbor than it does to protect you. Yet isn’t that what our community is all about — loving and caring for our neighbors?

On July 8, Pickens Mayor Fletcher Perry, Pickens city administrator Philip Trotter, Pickens City Councilman Patrick Lark, Pickens County administrator Ken Roper and medical professionals from our community, Dr. Mike Dillard, RN Sharon Stark, and Dr. Jim Mahanes, met at Pickens City Hall to discuss the best way for the city of Pickens and the larger community of Pickens County to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Local leaders listened to local medical experts, who are known and trusted because of their reputation in our community and the years of experience they have amassed serving our community’s health needs. The group agreed that staying home when possible, social distancing, practicing good hand hygiene and mask wearing are the best tools for our community. Furthermore, it was agreed that our community’s deep-seated sense of caring for others will be vital in the fight against COVID-19.

While the summer months offer us the opportunity to enjoy outside activities and studies have suggested heat and humidity and open aeration can suppress the virus’ lifespan on surfaces, it has no affect on the transmission of the virus from person to person. Cases statewide and nationwide continue to increase; therefore, protective measures are more important than ever.

The virus is going to be with us for an unknown span of time, so vigilance in mitigating efforts must continue until a vaccine is available. “Operation Warp Speed” by the government has promising reports that one may be available in early 2021. Until then, the only way we can reduce the number of individuals who contract this virus is by watching out for one another. We know that if you have chronic diseases, your risk for poor outcomes with COVID-19 increases, and the more chronic diseases you have, the greater your risk.

You may be under the impression that this illness is not much different than a cold, and while it may be the case that if you caught it you would experience mild symptoms and get over it in a matter of days or weeks, that may not be the case for your friend you saw at the grocery store and chatted with for 15 minutes. It also may not be the case for the elderly man or woman in your church, or the person with underlying health conditions in line with you at the post office.

However, if you decide to wear a mask, you can protect all those people who may not fare as well if they catch this virus, and you may even save a life.

As a community that is experiencing known community transmission of COVID-19, we need to act together to prevent the spread of disease. Being considerate of others and treating others the way we want to be treated are dearly held beliefs of our community. It is more important than ever to put these long-held convictions into practice, and at times put the needs of others before our own comfort. Consider your family, friends, coworkers or the person you pass in a store.

If we prevent the spread to just one vulnerable person, then the inconvenience of prevention is well worth it. We have the opportunity to be courteous and respectful of our neighbors by considering their health and well-being in addition to our own. Wearing a mask is a selfless act. It shows that you care about your neighbor.

As we continue to battle this virus, we strongly encourage you to frequently wash your hands with soap and hot water for a minimum of 20 seconds, stay at least six feet away from others, and yes, wear a mask, especially when you are in an environment in which it is difficult to maintain social distancing guidelines.

If you feel sick, stay home, and if you experience symptoms of COVID-19, call your health care provider. These are the best practices we can use to limit the impact COVID-19 will have on our community. Please be diligent in these practices for yourself, for your family and for your neighbors.

Dr. Mike Dillard, MD

Patrick Lark, Pickens city councilman

Dr. Jim Mahanes, MD

Fletcher Perry, Pickens mayor

Ken Roper, Pickens County administrator

Sharon L. Stark, RN, CIC

Philip Trotter, Pickens city administrator