CEO Coronavirus Update – January 11, 2022

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Many of us think of a new year as a new beginning – an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and to start fresh. As we bid farewell (not a fond one) to 2021, we’d optimistically (and, yes, naively) hoped that 2022 would be better and that we could put COVID in the rear-view mirror.

I continue to be optimistic that 2022 WILL be a better year in terms of the pandemic. I have been told that I am someone who looks at the glass as being half full rather than half empty, but I really do think that things will improve by springtime. Here’s what we have going for us, in the fight against COVID:

  • Every day, more people are being vaccinated and receiving booster shots, or are developing antibodies because they have had COVID (sometimes without even knowing it because they have had no symptoms). Gradually, we are getting closer to herd immunity.
  • COVID testing is more widely available, via at-home and drive-up tests. Those who test positive can isolate for 5 days if asymptomatic and 10 days if they have symptoms, thus reducing the rate of transmission.
  • Historically, pandemics have ended after two waves of transmission, each wave having less severe impact, in terms of hospitalizations and deaths, than the prior. We have been through two waves. Pandemics burn themselves out because the virus has trouble finding “willing” hosts.

Having said all of this though, COVID will be with us for the rest of our lives. Just like the common cold or the flu, this virus will become endemic. COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the flu is caused by influenza A and B viruses, and a cold is most frequently caused by rhinoviruses. All of these viruses spread in similar ways (primarily through respiratory droplets released when someone who has a virus breathes, coughs, talks, sneezes, or sings).

Meanwhile, we will have to continue to adjust and pivot as we learn how to live with this most recent virus while we gradually and very cautiously resume pre-pandemic activities. The only thing that’s certain about this pandemic is uncertainty and it can be incredibly frustrating and exhausting to navigate through the constant changes in our day-to-day lives, making decisions about what to do and what not to do. As we maneuver through the pandemic, we must constantly factor in the beliefs and viewpoints of others who may not agree with what we’re doing (whether they think that we’re being too cautious or not cautious enough), which adds to our stress. How do we safely maneuver through all of this?

The word that comes immediately to mind (perhaps because of where I work!) is GRACE. This organization happens to be named after the wife of one of our early benefactors (Dr. Abel & Grace Grout – and thank goodness her name wasn’t Henriette – Henriette Cottage just doesn’t have the same ring to it!), but if we all strive for grace under pressure (Ernest Hemingway’s definition of “courage”) during 2022, we’ll be better off, and so will those near to us.

I bring this up because, as we enter year three of the pandemic, front-line workers, including healthcare professionals, store clerks and cashiers, police, fire and rescue workers are seeing pandemic-fueled anger on the part of those they are trying to help. Taking one’s frustration and anger out on those who cannot remain safely at home only adds to angst, and solves nothing.

Governor Phil Scott put the spotlight on healthcare workers in the state of Vermont during his recent State of the State address. Staffing has been an extremely big challenge, statewide, as employees in the healthcare field experience burnout or must be out of work when they or family members contract Omicron. Our other employees here at Grace Cottage have pitched in when possible.

It may be helpful to put this pandemic into historical perspective. Those that were born at the turn of the last century lived through WWI and the Spanish Flu epidemic during their teenage years, the Great Depression during their late 20’s and early 30’s, WWII during their early 40’s, the Korean War during their 50’s, and the Vietnam War and the Cuban Missile Crisis during their 60’s. This too, like all of these other major events, shall pass. Take a deep breath. Be kind. Be graceful.

Doug DiVello, President & CEO
Grace Cottage Family Health & Hospital