‘It will not be back to what it was’: Waiting for reopening guidance, medical, elder facilities maintain strict precautions
As fear of the novel coronavirus’ spread continues, many wonder what it will take for Nevada County to move through a cautious, phased approach toward normalcy.
And while those within organizations that offer health care, elder care and hospice care are pondering the same concern, some are already considering precautions for once transitions begin.
Mostly, local organizations are awaiting more data about COVID-19 cases produced by enhanced testing, and further guidelines from Gov. Gavin Newsom and state public health departments before making any decisions about future practices and precautions.
“Hospice is really wanting to follow the guidelines and be a lot more strict,” said Akhila Murphy, a death doula, hospice volunteer and co-founder of Nevada County’s Full Circle of Living & Dying.
While hospice is cautiously considering allowing 10 people to share their grief in the same space, while maintaining physical distancing and deep hygienic practices, the activity will likely not be normal in the pre-pandemic sense of the term.
“It will not be back to what it was,” said Murphy, adding, “It doesn’t seem like things will get back to normal this year.”
Grass Valley medical clinic Yubadocs has been taking precautions set by the Centers for Disease Control and public health departments as they test residents for the novel coronavirus. Even as things begin to open up in the coming weeks and months, clinic owner Dr. Roger Hicks said some things won’t change.
“Everyone in the clinic wears masks throughout the work day,” he said. “I don’t think we will change any of that.”
WAITING ON Vaccine
While the county and state have effectively flattened the curve, Hicks said meaningful pushes toward normalcy are probably about six months away, as more people are likely to be infected, albeit over a longer period of time — which is the goal of physical distancing. The most profound social changes, he said, will come from a widely distributed vaccine.
“The same number of people may get infected, but it’s not going to overwhelm the health care system,” he said. “If there’s a vaccine, that will change everything.”
Grass Valley’s Chapa-De Indian Health clinic CEO Lisa Davies agreed.
“I think until there’s a vaccine or until there’s significantly robust testing, this will be normal,” she said.
Chapa-De has started talks on what precautions need to be taken in the following phases, but doesn’t yet know the guidelines that will be set by state and national health agencies.
Precautions for the Western Sierra Medical Clinic include screening people as they enter its building, asking them questions about symptoms they may have and taking their temperatures. The clinic has separated the sick patients from the well, and provided a separate entrance for pregnant patients, according to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Christina Lasich. Lasich doesn’t yet know what future precautions will be taken at her clinic, but she said testing in the area will soon increase significantly as a new testing facility will be placed in Grass Valley.
Some agencies, like the senior living facility Eskaton Village, have not begun discussion on what reopening will look like, according to Chief Operating Officer Betsy Donovan. The facility is among the most cautious, even as people begin to hypothesize future situations, as its residents are at a high risk of dying from the disease (SARS-CoV-2) caused by the virus, said Donovan.
“We don’t have groups at all, we don’t have close gatherings,” she said. “There’s not a lot of discussion at this point of lowering those restrictions. Senior living is probably going to be one of the last things that opens up or lifts visitation restrictions.”
Medical clinic officials say they don’t know how much the pandemic will change society in coming months and years, but many believe telemedicine will become commonplace. In order to strengthen that possibility, Hicks said he hopes broadband is expanded to more rural areas to ameliorate connectivity problems.
He also hopes that more people place their trust in science, which has been “severely threatened recently under the current administration.”
“It’s shocking to me that science has become a partisan issue,” said Hicks. “The virus doesn’t know any politics, it doesn’t fear a Republican or a Democrat.”
Lisa Davies and Dr. Christina Lasich both believe telemedicine will be here to stay.
“I think we are going to see a new normal in medicine and the world,” said Lasich, noting that telemedicine will help physicians and patients reduce the risk of infecting other people, thus preventing the spread of disease in the future.
Akhila Murphy, who said she sometimes feels awkward without donning a mask these days, said people assisting with end-of-life care may begin taking more precautions that don’t fade with time. She said masks and hand sanitizer will likely become more widely available around such spaces.
“I just have a feeling that this awareness is going to change things,” said Murphy.
To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4219.
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