Commentary: Spread facts not fear (or germs)

It seems like in a 24-hour period, our lives changed dramatically from observing something that was happening “out there” to something that likely will be happening in our own community. Some remember the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated, others remember the day the space shuttle exploded before their eyes, now this will be the day we remember major league sports being suspended, entertainers canceling their tours, colleges canceling classes, and then the first positive test in Anchorage, so close to home. It is in times like these, we can choose how we respond: either with intelligence, compassion and courage or with anger, judgement and fear.

If we are able to respond with intelligence and courage during this time, we will heed the advisement from the CDC to stay at home if you can, avoid crowds, wash your hands for 20 seconds, cough and sneeze into tissues, and avoid touching face and eyes. And of course, if you are sick, please stay home and call Ilanka or CCMC clinic for further advisement. The Cordova medical community, the city and the disaster preparedness team have been working tirelessly to prepare for this event. Ilanka has set up a separate respiratory clinic downstairs. Your nurse and doctor will be wearing the CDC recommended mask and gown and you will also be asked to wear a mask if you are having respiratory symptoms.

If we begin to get positive cases here in Cordova, the community will be informed as soon as possible. Do not rely on rumors but look to the city and disaster preparedness bulletin online to keep you up to date on the status. Should we get positive cases, it is even more important to employ “social distancing,” stay at home, and if not having symptoms, get outside with your family. As your healthcare providers, our goal is to be “ahead of the curve” when it comes to community spread and then “flatten the curve” so that as few as possible of our community members become infected.

For most people who get the infection it presents with only mild cold or flu-like symptoms. The problem with this virus is that you can “pass the infection” for up to two weeks before you begin to get symptoms. This is why if you find out you have been around someone who has symptoms, it is best to limit close contact with others, “social distancing,” even if you are not feeling sick or do not have a temperature. If you do develop symptoms, it is important to contact your doctor immediately by telephone for further advisement. Most children and adults are not at risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19, but we want to protect those who are: adults above 60 years of age and those with diabetes, lung disease or heart disease. Even if you fit in the “high-risk” category, you still have a greater chance of a milder infection instead of the more severe. However, we all know that if even one of our elders has a severe infection that leads to respiratory failure, that is one too many. We need to do our part to prevent the spread as much as possible. Although it may seem an overreaction, as we have not had a positive case, the most important time to impact the curve is before an outbreak occurs.

Lastly, although social distancing is highly encouraged, social disgracing is not. If the virus arrives in Cordova, don’t let it take away the very things that make our community special, our unity in diversity, our ability to help each other out, and our ability to persevere and thrive in the midst of challenges. We are fighting the virus, not our fellow Cordovans and want to come out on the other side knowing that we have not let our fear overwhelm our humanity.

From the CDC website, “Please spread facts but not fear or rumors.” Please go to the website for answers to frequently asked questions and more information:

Dr. Kristel Rush is a medical doctor and medical director for Ilanka Community Health Center in Cordova.