By Gina Morgenstein
One of the most striking responses early in the pandemic was the heartening outbreak of support for first responders and medical providers. Front lawns bloomed with signs of support and love. Nightly at 7 p.m .in New York City for months health care workers were serenaded with clapping, cheers and music for their efforts to preserve life at a time when our understanding and tools were limited.
That was almost two years ago. We now approach the third year of the pandemic. Although the medical community has more tools and a better understanding the stress and strain has not lessened, it has sustained and increased.
It is hard to understand especially in the medical community why this continues when vaccines are available and the simple act of wearing a mask correctly, getting vaccinated could have lead to a resumption of normal life.
The consequence of being unvaccinated and not wearing a mask means my colleagues in the medical community are falling ill despite every caution they take. It means the provider with Covid19 now deals with her equally ill 2-year old child who cannot be vaccinated. It means front staff quarantined at home and urgent clinics that cannot open for lack of staff. It means greeting a line of anxious and ill people waiting around the building before the clinic opens. It means clinics seeing record numbers of ill people that cannot all be seen in a day and having to turn dozens away to hopefully be seen elsewhere or another day.
The consequence of the unvaccinated and not wearing a mask means hospitals once again delaying elective surgery. It means our children not having a normal school experience and social life. It means our elders are isolated and cut off from social and family connections.
Personally it has taken a toll. Like my fellow colleagues in medicine I am in constant stress. Will illness overcome me? Can I provide quality care in a system that is overloaded? Will I bring the illness home to my family? Will illness be passed to those who cannot be vaccinated? My husband waited for months for clearance for open-heart surgery due to Covid19. My son-in-law’s parents could not travel from England to see their new granddaughter. My son works abroad and has been unable to visit home. My 95-year old mother now in a nursing home just survived Covid-19 this November. My 96-year old father-in-law who lives with us has seen his world shrink as we try to keep him safe. My experiences are not unique as we all face varied and substantial consequences.
The virus has one aim that is to survive. It mutates to do so. We are at omicron (15 of 24 letters of Greek alphabet) It knows no boundaries, it respects no age. The longer it goes unchecked the more it will thrive. As long as it can spread in a mostly unvaccinated and unmasked world the longer our lives will be under siege.
Some claim that freedom comes in having the choice not to mask, not to vaccinate. There cannot be freedom under the tyranny of Covid-19. Our true freedom comes from our being responsible to each other as a community and not as individuals. We will be free again when our medical system and providers can operate as intended. We will be free again when our children are unbound from the constraints of the pandemic. Our society will be free again when we can travel, shop and eat freely in a world not devastated by Covid-19.
The pandemic has taken its toll on everyone. For me it has contributed to my stepping down from the Wallingford Town Council.
Mask up, get vaccinated.
Gina Morgenstein, PA-C, is a former Wallingford town councilor.