As winter approaches, top doctors in the state are warning of harsh conditions both inside and outside the hospital. The speculation around links between weather conditions and the virus remains just that, speculation. However, given the health challenges winter usually brings, it is safe to say the reasons for concern exist.
Tuesday saw the number of COVID-19 deaths statewide pass the 9,000 marks, a bleak reminder of what has happened this year. Unfortunately, the state is also witnessing climbing figures of test positivity, and winter has not yet begun.
It is a widely held belief that we should not wait for a sudden surge in cases before taking action. We already have plenty of experience with this disease, even if we are still in the dark about many aspects of the virus and its treatment.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, has offered details revealing just how many metrics officials are raking through to get the most accurate information. Using this data, public health officials are able to make better decisions.
The information being used includes details by region about hospitalizations, deaths and emergency room visits. Scientists are also combing through information such as hospital bed and ventilator availability. Ezike reminds everyone of the restrictions already in place, and why it is important to continue following them:
“…people who are not in your household, even if they share the same last name as you, are not part of your bubble. People have to get used to the idea of wearing masks in their own home when they’re with a mixed company.”
Following a fiscally tough year, there is, unfortunately, more need for human services support than ever before. We reported in June that hospitals are seeking big credit lines from Wall Street, knowing that the winter would be a costly one.
The additional cost of treatment is not just hurting the hospitals, of course. We also wrote in June that we can expect to see health insurance premiums going up because of the coronavirus. This winter is set to be another expensive season for the nation.
As winter approaches there is, of course, more fear than we had two months ago as businesses began to reopen. At that time, optimism was high about finding a new vaccine which, of course, has not yet been found.
Regardless of how much the possibility of a vaccine appearing soon is discussed, everyone needs to be aware that any vaccine is yet a ways off, even though several are in late-stage trials. Of course, no one knows what form the vaccine will take, including Mayor Lightfoot;
“Obviously, we don’t know at this point what the vaccine will be — whether it will be one shot, multiple shots,” Lightfoot said. “I don’t think we are in the position right now to opine about that because there’s lot of different trials that are in various states.”
The best course of action is for all of us to follow the guidelines, and expect nothing from a vaccine until it has actually arrived. Planning for the logistics of getting a vaccine is all well and good, but people shouldn’t hang on to the notion that a vaccine is around the corner.
At the very least, Dr. Allison Arwady, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, understands the uncertain nature of this;
“We’re planning for all eventualities — not for sure knowing when or the details of what will be needed, but we’re ready no matter when it comes,”
Beyond the cold weather, we will see as winter approaches, and the impaired immune systems often coinciding with that, there is also the issue of protocol fatigue setting in. Following months of vigilance and operating at high-stress levels, our own fatigue from 2020 could result in individuals’ increased risk of contracting the virus.
Epidemiologist Dr. Emily Landon, who has been researching the coronavirus since January, understands the level of fatigue based on behaviors this year:
“It’s more fatiguing for the rest of us when you have to fight against this refusal to play by the same rules, I feel like with this pandemic … the vast majority want to protect others and there’s a vocal minority that argues about where their rights end and everyone else’s begin.”
Ultimately, the situation will get tougher as winter approaches. It is important to emphasize the need for every person to look after their own health, both physical and mental, and to support those around you.