Traditionally, my December column is a lookback at the noteworthy issues and accomplishments that defined our community in the prior 12 months. I am not doing that this year. We have heard enough of that for 2020.

Let’s focus on where we are today and what we can do to move forward. Hopefully then, we can watch this tumultuous pandemic fade in our rear-view mirror.

Currently, we are at a critical point as we battle significant community spread of COVID-19. We are in the very precarious position of trying to prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed.  

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the availability of ventilators and hospital beds have been the primary indicators to gauge the severity of the spread. But it’s much more than beds and vents.  Health care workers, by the nature of their work, are at great risk of exposure, getting sick, necessitating isolation and quarantine. Not only does health care delivery become limited by the reduction of workforce, but there is the physical and mental toll on those that don’t get sick and become overworked, impacting their productivity.

I recently was made aware of a critical surgery that couldn’t be performed regionally because there was not enough personnel to staff an operating room at a particular hospital location.  Unfortunately, at another separate site, the surgeon was unavailable because he was quarantined. The procedure was ultimately performed at a third facility out of the area.

Even more critical, patients are ignoring their own health concerns and delaying non-COVID related critical medical care. A recent CDC survey indicated that 4 in 10 adults surveyed have avoided or delayed medical care because of concerns related to COVID-19. While the majority of those are forgoing routine care, a significant portion avoided urgent or emergency medical care.  Symptoms should not be ignored. The progression of cancer, heart disease and diabetes will not pause. This is a real, serious concern.  

This is where we are today. The public-health based messaging is clear.  Responsible protective and hygienic precautions will reduce disease spread, saves lives and hasten our return to the new normal.

Almost a year after the pandemic began, we have a better understanding of the virus. New medicines have improved treatment and quarantine protocols are better understood.

As you have probably seen, the Pfizer vaccine was just approved in England and most expect it will be approved here in the coming weeks. A second vaccine (Moderna) is also anticipated to be approved shortly after that.

Our local health care workers will be first in line and should begin receiving it before the end of the year.  

Earlier this week, I was on a call with Governor Eric Holcomb and a group of locally elected officials to discuss the worsening situation.    We were assured that the Indiana State Department of Health has been preparing for the vaccine rollout for months. It will most likely be offered first to those most at risk. Once the federal approval process is complete, details will begin to emerge.  It will be a major logistical challenge and I’m sure there will be significant challenges.

We can turn the corner if we stay focused on the precautions asked of us and let science guide us with the next step.