Our Communities

Help Us Save Lives this Holiday Season

This week’s article comes from me, Tim Ahlers, CEO at GMHC. As she and our other providers tirelessly care for our patients, I’d like to start off my message by thanking Dr. Michele Dikkers. She has diligently written 33 articles to keep the communities we serve up to date on this pandemic. Her first article entitled “Protect Yourself” was published on April 1, 2020. And now, here we are 7 months later with yet another plea to protect yourself and your loved ones as we approach the holidays.

COVID-19 has hit the communities we serve, and it has hit hard. Guttenberg has become a hot spot. Our dedicated staff is doing their best to take care of patients, but they are exhausted. We need YOU to help us save lives.

How can you help us save lives?

Statistics show that 80% of infected people are below the age of 60. Perhaps this is your son or daughter, granddaughter or grandson, niece or nephew.

Statistics also show that 90% of people who die of COVID-19 are above age 60. Maybe this is your mom or dad, uncle or aunt, grandma or grandpa. 

Protect your loved ones this holiday season. I respect tradition, but think twice about the big celebration. Prepare a meal for those who live under your roof. 

Does it sound like that is too hard for you? Our health care professionals are doing REALLY hard work right here at GMHC. We’re trying our best to save the lives of your loved ones. And we’re hoping the choices you make this holiday season will make our work a little easier.

Help us save lives. Always mask, watch your distance, and wash your hands.

Being Thankful

By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

As we enter November, my mind automatically goes to Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving should remind all of us to be thankful. I try to be thankful every day, not just in November. It can be simple things or big things. The sun coming up in the morning. The moon and stars shining in the sky at night. Seeing the wonder of the Mississippi River every day. Washing machines, so much better than a rock down by the river. There’s my car, much better than an ox and a wagon.

I am thankful that I get to do a job that I enjoy. I treasure the privilege of taking care of the people in my community. I work with medical providers that feel the same way. We look forward to challenges and being able to be available to our patients in their time of need.

Then came a new coronavirus, COVID-19. It has changed our lives too.

Though we have been aware of COVID-19 and watched it ravage the states on the east coast, then the west coast and then the south, we maintained lower case numbers, until now. The number of new cases in the state of Iowa, per day held steady, under 1000, until the beginning of October. The past week as seen over 3500 new cases daily. Over the past 2 weeks, the number of cases in Clayton County has increased over 200 cases. Local clinics are seeing 50-80% of those tested, testing positive for COVID-19.

This disease is just starting to hit our state. As we study the curves from other states, we know that from the beginning of an increase in the curve (number of cases), until it begins to slow, is approximately 12 weeks.

The number of admissions for many hospitals in NE Iowa are at, or very near, capacity.

The number of deaths in Iowa has risen to over 1800 people. That is the population of Guttenberg. A whole town gone.

There is a desperate need to slow the spread of this disease, flatten the curve and protect our community.

I am thankful for the people I work with. All of them, housekeeping to plant management to receptionists to nursing staff, therapy, lab techs, radiology techs, etc., there are too many to mention. Guttenberg Municipal Hospital & Clinics employs approximately 160 staff members, MercyOne in Elkader employs approximately 100 staff members.

They are working extra shifts, working in departments other than their own, trying to find extra room for extra beds/admissions and how to care for them with the staff we have and coming up with new policies and processes to better care for the ill patients of our community.

There have been businesses in the community that have made donations to the workers. We have received pizza, donuts, drinks, and support. We are thankful for our community, and their support.

An effective way to support our medical community, care providers and support staff, would be to wear a mask, decrease the numbers of cases, flatten the curve. Help decrease the numbers of people needing to be hospitalized. Help decrease the number of deaths.

It is a privilege to serve this community, but it will take more than just the medical professionals to fight this fight, it will take all of our community. We are asking for help in protecting our community.

PLEASE, wear masks. It is vital. It is the best tool we have to prevent the spread.

Help flatten the curve.

Wear masks, Wash your hands and Watch your distance.

Due to the current surge, there may be weeks I am unable to submit an article.

Thank you for your support.

Remember, we are in this together. We must flatten the curve.

Being Responsible Saves Lives

By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

Earlier this year Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died at age 87 from cancer.  She remained active in court decisions until her death.  In the past three years she was involved in hearing over 200 cases.  She was the mother of two children and a grandmother.  

Per the WHO (World Health Organization) there have been 43.5 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide, 8.68 million of those cases are in the United States.  Worldwide there have been 1.16 million deaths, 225,000 deaths in the United States. (Data from Johns Hopkins October 28, 2020.)  An American dies every 107 seconds from COVID-19.  

The United States has approximately 4.5% of the world population, while the US carries 20% of the COVID-19 cases and 20% of the deaths.  

There is very little we can do about the current existence of COVID-19.  It is one of those things we have to develop a strategy for fighting head on.  Early in the course of COVID-19 Iowa managed its mitigation well and held the daily case count to around 500 or less a day.  We flattened the curve.  As time has progressed the daily counts have climbed.  In late August the number of new cases reported in Iowa climbed to over 1,000 a day.  Over the past week we started recording 2,000 new cases a day.  

The numbers in Clayton County have also spiked.  We are now reporting 4 times as many cases a day as we did two weeks ago.  The cases we are now seeing are spread throughout the county and are no longer isolated to an event or age group.  The cases are now considered due to community spread.   Community spread means it is spread by casual contact or exposure, to someone that is contagious.   You can be contagious if you have mild symptoms, or it may be during the two days prior to symptoms starting.   This means that, even if you are outside, wearing a mask will protect those you are around from COVID-19.  Let’s face it, you don’t just get COVID-19, someone gives it to you.

The highest risk populations for having complications or for dying of COVID-19 are those that are over the age of 65, have obesity, diabetes, lung disorder (COPD/emphysema/asthma), heart disorder or cancer.  These groups are at high risk for breathing difficulties, strokes and organ failure, thus, putting them at risk for dying.  When they die, it is due to COVID-19, not the underlying condition.  If they had not been “given” COVID-19, they would not have died.  Even the elderly would still be alive, living with their co-morbidities.  

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, died of pancreatic cancer, not COVID.  But think about all she did in those last three years.  

Imagine having three more years with your grandparent, parent or sibling.  

No one intentionally gives COVID-19 to another.  Eighty percent of the time, the symptoms will be mild.  Three percent of those infected will die.   Some argue that this is a low mortality rate, those that have lost a loved one will tell you it is too high.  

The risk of dying from breast cancer is 2.6%, less than that of dying from COVID-19.  We celebrate a whole month every year as a united front to fight for a cure for breast cancer.  There is no way to prevent breast cancer.  We know how to prevent COVID-19.

Flattening the curve worked in the past.  It can work again.  

Understanding the importance of Wearing masks, Washing our hands and Watching our distance, can flatten the curve again.  

As winter approaches, the 3 W’s will be essential at keeping COVID-19 under control, as we will be doing more activities indoors where ventilation may be limited, increasing the risk of spread.  

So, for the sake of those you love, your friends, your family, those you work with and your community, do what you can to prevent the spread.  Wear a mask.  Wash your hands.  Watch your distance.  Avoid large social gatherings.  

Be well and let’s take care of each other.

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Trick or Treat

By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

It’s October. Halloween is right around the corner, you could even say it’s here.

Halloween is frequently equated with scary stuff–ghosts, goblins, chainsaw murderers, talking scarecrows and the like. Whether the threats are perceived or real, they are out there, lurking around the next corner. So, we travel in groups, stay on streets that are lit well, avoid abandoned houses, and, unless we are reckless, we steer clear of cemeteries after dark.

As we prepare for the ghosts and goblins that will be knocking at our doors, don’t forget the unseen that can be lurking there as well. COVID-19 is spread unintentionally, especially when in groups of people, excitedly shouting and clambering for attention. Preventing it’s spread can be easy, simple even.

As we get ready for Halloween, incorporating the recommended mask/face coverings with our costumes can make the mask fun. The old plastic masks with a hole for the mouth and nose were never comfortable. The cloth mask can be decorated with the theme of the night. And there will be less face make-up to scrub off later!

Embrace the mask! Decorate it and be who you want to be for the day! The masks can be an opportunity for fun. Just as there are pumpkin carving contests, maybe add a mask decorating contest to the family fun. Challenge the neighbor or other relatives to a competition. The masks can be shared on social media, sent as emails or other electronic means of communication.

Trick or treating can be done safely with a few adjustments this year.

  • avoid traditional costume masks and wear the recommended cloth mask
  • make the cloth mask part of your costume
  • trick or treat with your family, avoid large groups
  • stay 6 feet away from trick-or-treaters not in your family group
  • wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before eating your treats

Make things safer for the trick-or-treaters. If you intend to give out treats, avoid offering a bowl full of treats that everyone grabs from. Consider individually bagged treats that can be set out and picked up by the trick-or-treaters. Hand out the treats outdoors, maybe consider setting them out individually at a “station” for the treaters to pick up. Wear a cloth mask when they come to your door. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently when handling the treats.

As I reflect on 2020, it seems we may have had more tricks this year than treats, given the pandemic, forest fires, hurricanes and the derecho. I also see the similarity on how we handle disasters. Some would say to start with a check list.

I’m not much for making check lists, but agree that tackling something that is overwhelming or scary takes a plan. It typically goes like this:

  • Step back and size up the situation.
  • Decide what can be controlled and what can’t.
  • Once you have determined what can be controlled, determine how that can be done safely.
  • Move forward when able.

When we look at a mess that is left behind by a storm, we take a deep breath, pick up a stick from the tree, then a limb, start a pile and continue, one piece at a time.

We do what we can.

The same can be true for the mess of the pandemic.

It’s here. We can’t change that COVID-19 is now a part of our lives, but we can determine what we can control, and what we can’t. We don’t have to come up with the plan on our own, guidance has been laid out for us by the CDC, Dr Fauci and the White House Task Force. Sometimes those details can become daunting, so stick to the basics.

Wear a mask, Wash your hands often and Watch your distance.

We may have to make adjustments to how we would “normally” do things, but embrace it as an opportunity to start a new tradition or an opportunity to celebrate uniquely.

Turn the trick into a treat.

Be well, be safe and be kind.

Remember, we are all in this together.

Golden Ticket

By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

While watching TV, I saw a commercial with Roy Rogers. Now, I am not quite old enough to say that I had watched him on TV while I was growing up, but I do know who he is and can say I always remember his smile. Memories of his face under that cowboy hat, are filled with a bright warm smile. The commercial was from a 1975 movie. He was saying “Like most things, what you see, depends on how you look at it.”

It struck me. We have heard it put many ways, but maybe not so well. We all know that our attitude toward something makes it more palatable or less so. If we are in a good mood, anything is possible. When we get up on the wrong side of the bed, nothing goes right, everything and everybody is wrong.

2020 has been overwhelming, to say the least. Sometimes we all wonder, “What next?”. There has been COVID-19, the wildfires, the derecho, the hurricanes and the election. When will it stop? Some say, “I am so over COVID”. That is like a character in a “Nightmare on Elm Street” movie saying they are “So over Freddy Krueger” and refusing to run. He is still around the corner, he isn’t going anywhere.

It doesn’t change the fact that we are all exhausted with the changes. Everyone is longing for normal. We know that COVID-19 isn’t going away anytime soon. So how can we get there?

Those of you that have been reading these columns and following the CDC and Dr Fauci, know what is coming next…yep, you’ve got it, Wear your mask, Wash your hands and Watch your distance. The mask is your ticket, your ticket to be interactive, to be social, to be outside your home, to be in a building that is not your home, with other people. Wearing masks keeps the number of cases down. The fewer cases, the fewer deaths. The fewer cases, the more we can do.

It’s October. Halloween is right around the corner. What a perfect time to talk about masks. As we all get ready for Halloween, incorporating the recommended mask face coverings with our costumes can make the mask fun. The old plastic masks with a hole for the mouth and nose were never comfortable. The cloth mask can be decorated with the theme of the night. And there will be less face make up to scrub off later!

Trick or treating can be done safely with a few adjustments this year.

  • avoid traditional costume masks and wear the recommended cloth mask
  • make the cloth mask part of your costume
  • trick or treat with your family, avoid large groups
  • stay six feet away from trick or treaters not in your family group
  • wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before eating your treats

Make things safer for the trick or treaters. If you intend to give out treats, avoid offering a bowl full of treats that everyone grabs from. Consider individually bagged treats that can be set out and picked up by the trick or treaters. Hand out the treats outdoors, maybe consider setting them out individually at a “station” for the treaters to pick up. Wear a cloth mask when they come to your door. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently when handling the treats.

Going trick or treating always held a bit of excitement, wondering who would get the most or the best candy. Something reminiscent of Charlie’s search in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”. We are all looking for the Golden Ticket.

And maybe, just like Charlie, we already have it. The mask. Instead of thinking of it as a restrictive annoyance, we need to take another look at it.

It’s the ticket that allows us to shop safely, go to sporting events, go to a restaurant, and see family. Masks aren’t just for trick or treating any more, they are for protecting each other, to keep each other safe and to keep our economy open.

So mask up! Be well. We are in this together.

Changes

By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

Changes…

We, all of us, are constantly bombarded with change. It is what keeps life from getting boring.

Since March, we have had more than our share of changes. At the beginning of the pandemic, we experienced daily informational changes regarding COVID-19. Since then, I’d like to say it has slowed down. And some days there are no changes and then other days, there are a number of changes that seem to hit on the same day.

The Governor of Iowa and The Iowa Department of Public Health have recently announced significant changes regarding exposure.

It can be confusing, so let’s go through the changes.

This information is taken from guidance dated September 29, 2020 from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Persons with symptoms of COVID-19 should self-isolate (this includes persons who test positive and persons who are not tested) until after these three things have happened:

• They have had no fever for at least 24 hours (that is one full day of no fever without the use of medicine that reduces fevers) AND

• Their other symptoms have improved (for example, when your cough or shortness of breath has improved) AND

• At least 10 days have passed since their symptoms first appeared.

Persons with symptoms of COVID-19 who are tested, test negative AND who ARE NOT a close contact of a person who tested positive for COVID-19, can go back to daily activities 24 hours after their fever and other symptoms resolve.

Persons with symptoms of COVID-19 who are tested, test negative AND who ARE a close contact of a person who tested positive for COVID-19, should continue to self-quarantine until 14 days after their last exposure to the confirmed case.

Persons who test positive for COVID-19 but do not experience symptoms should self-isolate until:

• At least 10 days have passed since the date of the first positive test AND

• They continue to have no symptoms (no cough or shortness of breath) since the test.

The guidance has changed regarding contact tracing, in Iowa. Previously, regardless of mask wearing, any contact with a person positive for COVID, required isolation. Now, in the state of Iowa, if you are wearing a mask and are exposed to a person with COVID, that IS ALSO wearing a mask, as long as you do not have symptoms, you do not need to isolate for 14 days.

-If you are not wearing a mask at the time of exposure, you will need to self isolate for 14 days, even if the infected person was wearing a mask.

-If the infected person is not wearing a mask, even if you are, you need to self isolate for 14 days.

–If you have been exposed, with or without masks, and develop symptoms, as it says above, you need to self isolate for 14 days, regardless of the outcomes of a test.

Exposure is considered close contact, less than 6 feet apart for more than 15 minutes. However, if you live in the same household, you are considered a close contact, even if you are wearing masks all of the time.

Long ago I learned from the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts that you should always “Do your best” and “always be prepared”. This continues to be true throughout life for all of us and maybe especially now. You may never know if or when you will be exposed to COVID-19, so “Do your best” and “be prepared”. Wear a mask, wash your hands and watch your distance. They are the best tools that we have.

Be well and remember, we are in this together.

What to Do with Stress

By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

For the past 6 months, I have been writing a weekly article for the people of Clayton County. As a member of the Clayton County Board of Health and as a physician in Clayton County, we felt there was a need to keep the public informed of what was going on in regards to COVID-19.

We, as much as anyone, know how confusing it can be.

The articles put out each week are not meant to create angst, but to aide in the understanding of where things are at during this pandemic. They are meant to be informative.

The pandemic has been overwhelming. We all feel the stress of the changes we have had to make since March.

The anxiety can sneak up on us, or smack us right in the face. It can keep us from sleeping, from concentrating and keep us from doing things with our families and friends. The fear of the disease and the angst of the changes we are trying to understand and juggle, may be as harmful to us as the disease itself.

Just as we have been taking steps to mitigate/prevent the disease, we can take steps to mitigate the stress that can come along with it.

– Managing stress can start with understanding the cause. Learn what you can about COVID-19, what to do to avoid COVID-19, what to do if you become ill with COVID-19 and how to help and care for others if they become infected. Follow medical sources for information, such as the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), Mayo Clinic, or others.

– On that same note, take time away from watching, reading and listening to too much news or social media about COVID-19 and other current events that can be stressful. It’s ok to take a two week break from all news.

– Manage what you can. You may not be able to control COVID-19, but you can avoid large crowds, wash your hands frequently and wear masks. Social distancing can create more stress. Remember, wearing masks allows us to get together with each other safely.

– Take care of your body. Get plenty of sleep. Exercise regularly. Eat healthy well balanced meals. Avoid excessive alcohol. Learn how to take deep breaths, stretch and consider learning how to meditate.

– Take time to unwind, time for yourself. Do something that you enjoy.

– Call your family and friends frequently. Make a list and rotate through them. Call a family member one day and a friend the next. Consider making a pact with a friend, a COVID-19 partner. Someone that you can call when you are having a bad day or needing to talk.

– Keep a journal, a daily diary. Doing this allows you to “dump” some of the stress you encounter in your day.

– Do things for your community. Consider volunteering.

– Reach out for help. Reach out to your medical provider. Make an appointment to discuss your options. Consider talking with someone. 

There are counselors and social workers available to help you work through the stress and learn new coping skills.

In the stress of the moment, stop, inhale for five seconds, hold it for five seconds and exhale for five seconds. Repeat 4-8 times. Resetting your breathing, can reset your brain, allowing you to regroup and start again.

These are trying times. But if we try, we can get through it. Start by trying the simple things. Everything else will fall into place. If they don’t, please ask for help. Your care providers want to hear from you.

Take care of yourselves and each other.

Remember, we are in this together.

Influenza vs COVID-19 

By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

Fall is here. School is in session. Flu is around the corner.

Influenza is a respiratory virus that typically dominates our winters. It keeps us home from work and keeps students home from school.

Symptoms can include fever, chills, body aches, headaches, runny nose, sore throat, cough and fatigue. Symptoms typically start 2-3 days after exposure and will last for a few days to two weeks. Secondary infections can occur as a complication to influenza, such as ear infections, sinus infections and pneumonia.

Do these symptoms sound familiar? They should. This year influenza has competition with COVID-19 for being the dominant respiratory infection this fall and winter.

So what’s the difference?

Loss of smell and taste can be associated with COVID-19, typically not with influenza.

Influenza symptoms typically start 1-5 days after infection, COVID-19 symptoms can start anywhere from 2-14 days after infection.

Both can lead to severe infections such as pneumonia, however, COVID-19 can cause a more severe version, resistant to treatment.

COVID-19 can cause blood clots in lungs, heart, legs, and the brain, potentially leading to a stroke.

Most with influenza will recover in a few days to two weeks. COVID-19 symptoms can also recover in a few days to two weeks, but those with severe complications may be in the hospital for weeks to months. The cough itself may linger for weeks.

While there is much to learn about COVID-19, we are learning that this virus appears to trigger other reactions in the body, in some cases causing what appears to be an autoimmune response creating a situation where the body attacks itself.

COVID-19 attacks the lungs differently than influenza does, in some cases, much more aggressively.

COVID-19 may cause very few symptoms, creating “carriers” that can spread the virus, without knowing they are doing so.

Influenza treatments include antivirals that can be taken by mouth. COVID-19 treatment is continuing to be explored, while there are promising options, they are IV versions available for hospitalized patients only.

Death rate of influenza is 0.1%. Death rate of COVID-19 is 3-4%.

Last year 34,000 people died in the United States of influenza. In the past 9 months, 200,000 people have died in the United States of COVID-19. (It took the past five years for the same number of people to die of influenza.)

Another difference is the availability of a vaccine. There is a vaccine for influenza, there is not yet one for COVID-19. Many companies are working hard to come up with a safe vaccine that will hopefully be available next year.

Probably the most important thing about influenza and COVID-19, is that they are both spread by respiratory particles. Coughing, sneezing, and talking can easily cause spread. Wearing masks can help prevent the spread of both viruses.

So, while the diseases have similar symptoms, they are very much different in how they attack the body. Differences that we continue to struggle to understand and figure out, so as to come up with a treatment plan.

As fall and winter approach, get your influenza vaccine (now available at most clinics), wash your hands frequently and wear a mask. If you become ill, stay at home. Make an appointment with your health care provider for testing to determine if you have influenza, COVID-19 or another illness. Treatment options can proceed from there.

Remember, we are in this together.

Which Mask?

By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

Masks…

Have we talked about masks? We’ve talked about the importance of masks. We’ve talked about the recommendation by the CDC. The recommendation that we all wear masks in public settings around people who don’t live in our household. We’ve talked about the fact that masks stop the spread of COVID-19, and at this time, we have nothing else, with the exception of closing everything down.

The CDC makes the recommendation for masks based on their effectiveness to act as a simple barrier in preventing respiratory droplets from traveling into the air when people cough, sneeze, talk and raise their voices. The louder we talk, the farther the particles can travel.

But we have not yet taken the time to discuss the mask itself. So, here we go. The CDC recommends that we wear masks with two or more layers. To wear the mask properly, make sure it fits over your nose and mouth, and secure it under your chin.

Covering just your mouth or nose, only does half the job. It should fit snuggly against the side of your face without gaps. For those of us that wear glasses, finding masks that fit tightly/closely over the nose, or one with a nose wire, will help prevent fogging.

There have been a number of studies investigating the effectiveness of material used for the masks. Most recently, Duke University compared 14 different masks and material, to wearing no mask. The results confirmed CDC recommendations of 2-3 layers of tightly woven cotton to be the best in a cloth mask (decreased droplet transmission by 80%), after a polypropylene fabric. A mask made of knit material decreased droplet transmission by 65%. And though bandanas are cotton, it is not tightly woven cotton, and was only 50% as effective. They also tested a single layer polyester/spandex gaiter, this was found to be no more effective than not wearing a mask.

How do we know if the weave it tight enough? The simple test, hold the material up to the light. It may not tell you how tight the weave is, but if you hold it up to the light and you can see through it, it isn’t tight enough.

The CDC recommends not using fabrics that are hard to breath through when making a mask, like vinyl. Masks with exhalation valves are not effective because they allow virus particles to escape into the air.

The CDC recommends wearing face shields to protect the wearer from contracting the virus through the eyes. The effectiveness of wearing shields alone to prevent spread has not yet been confirmed, evaluation is ongoing. When using a face shield, it is still recommended to wear a mask with it. Evaluating the effectiveness of gaiters, is also ongoing per the CDC.

Masks should not be shared. They should be changed daily or if they become soiled, and cleaned after use. Washing the cloth mask in warm soapy water and drying in a dryer will be adequate to sanitize them.

Avoid touching your mask while wearing it. If you need to readjust it, do so by using the edges of the mask, not the front of the mask.

Wear your mask into a restaurant, once you have reached your table, remove the mask. Put the mask back on whenever you leave your table.

If sitting in the stands at a school or sporting event, keep your mask in place. Remember, when cheering on the students or your favorite team, airborne particles can travel farther than when you are talking. Masks protect those sitting in front of and around you.

So, find a mask that is comfortable to wear. Maybe even find one that fits your personality. Choose a mask with 2-3 layers of tightly woven cotton, for the best protection. Be safe out there. Be Well.

We are in this together.

Be Mindful

By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

As the wildfires burn in California, its residents stand helpless, doing what they can to stop the fires and their progression. While the cause of the fires is largely due to the heat and dryness, some were started accidentally, like with the pyrotechnics used for a gender reveal party.

Everyone was there to have a good time. No one intended the fire to start, but once it did, it was out of control.

No one intends to get COVID-19…No one intends to give COVID-19 to others. But it happens.

We get asked all of the time, “Why don’t you ever get sick? You work with sick people all day long, how do you not get what everyone else has?” The simple answer is we wash our hands frequently. We wash them when we walk into the room to see a patient, we wash our hands when we finish examining the patient and we wash our hands before we eat. And now with COVID-19, we wear masks. Yes, we’ve been exposed, and not just with patients, and wearing masks have made a difference.

Staying safe takes thought, at least until it becomes habit. Wearing your seatbelt. Wearing safety orange when hunting. Wearing ear protection when operating noisy equipment. Wearing a welding helmet to protect your eyes. Each time, you need to think about reaching for the seatbelt, your coat, etc. You need to think about when you will need to wear each item.

Being mindful of your surroundings and your actions is key to survival. Looking both ways when you cross the street. Knowing how deep the water is before diving in. Knowing how cold it is outside before leaving the house and dressing appropriately. These are all important.

Now, since COVID-19 has become part of our life, we have a whole new check list. Mask—check. Hand sanitizer—check. Six feet—check.

But when do we wear the mask? Whenever you are outside of your home. Put it on before you get out of your car. And wear it until you either are seated at your destination, six feet away from others or once you get back into your car. Once you are back in your car, it is also a good time to use your hand sanitizer.

Be mindful of your actions.

Just as wildfires can be prevented, spreading COVID-19 can be prevented.

Only you can prevent COVID. Wear a mask.