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How Do We Gather Safely?

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How Do We Gather Safely?

As the threat of the Delta variant of coronavirus has renewed safety restrictions and other mandates in California, Ridgecrest Regional Hospital staff is examining the risks of viral outbreak while acknowledging the toll that prolonged isolation can take on an individual’s overall health.

In Kern County, more than 119,000 have contracted the virus, and 1,443 (according to the latest reported numbers) have lost their lives.

“We are doing our best to be conscientious stewards of our resources so that we can continue to respond to COVID-related illnesses along with all other healthcare needs,” said RRH CEO James Suver. “But we also know that diseases of despair have impacted our community as well.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of adults struggling with stress and anxiety during the pandemic rose by 25 percent. During the pandemic, 40 percent of adults in the U.S. reported at some point struggling with either mental health issues or substance abuse. Early reports indicate that suicide attempts have increased across almost every demographic, with the most significant increase affecting adolescents aged 12-17.

“We know that human connection is an important part of health, and we want to find safe ways to make those connections possible,” said Suver. A substantial body of research suggests that social connection increases happiness, improves overall health, and even leads to a longer life span.

"The world as we know it is very different from the one that went on lock down 18 months ago. Working, traveling, shopping, education, worship and nearly every other aspect of our lives have been impacted in some way.”

We are slowly reverting to typical activities, he said, with children back in schools, most businesses back to some level of operation, and outdoor activities resuming. But things are a far cry from normal. We continue to have weddings and funerals, birthdays and graduations, “So how do we celebrate these occasions without putting our vulnerable residents at an unnecessary risk? It takes a little thought and planning, but I think it’s possible.”

CDC and California Department of Public Health have provided guidance for safe gatherings, but Suver said that many of the guidelines come down to good judgement and common sense. 

“If you are hosting an event, make sure that you can accommodate people outdoors, or at least in a manner that allows for appropriate distancing,” he said. “If you are not vaccinated, make sure you wear a mask. Even vaccinated people can carry the disease, so take every reasonable precaution for those around you even if you’re protected.”

One of the highest risks comes with traveling — especially those visiting airports, bus stations, train stations and other places where travelers from different regions intersect.

“Remember that the number of people you are exposed to, and the length of time you are exposed, can both increase your risk of transmission.”

Suver also noted that CDC recommends self-screening, even when it is not required at venues. If you have cough or flu-like symptoms, stay home.

Good hygiene practices continue to be an important aspect of limiting transmission, as well.

“For many people, there is a sort of ‘crisis fatigue’ that comes with having to deal with these realities a year and a half after the threat of pandemic first hit,” said Suver. “We know that Spanish Flu lasted more than two years. In that time, more than 500 million worldwide were infected and an estimated 100 million were killed by the disease.

It is impossible to know what the future holds with this pandemic, but if a reasonable amount of precautions in the short term improve our ability to recover in the long term, I think that’s a worthwhile tradeoff."