*This is a 6-part 2-reporter series done with Vivian Rennie
On the Front Line: From the first COVID-19 cases to treatments
SIOUX CITY, Iowa — There are very few parts of our everyday lives that have not been impacted or changed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the healthcare workers on the frontlines, this is doubly true. The Siouxland News team sat down with health officials and doctors from UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's and Mercy One Siouxland Medical Center for exclusive and extensive interviews about the virus from their eyes.
We are bringing you a closer look at all aspects of this pandemic, in our exclusive 6 part series, we start with the virus that started it all COVID-19.
Dr. Sandeep Gupta, a pulmonologist at UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's still noticed people not taking the pandemic seriously, even six months in. He told us:
Some people are still thinking that this is a hoax. Please don't underestimate this virus as it has caused a lot of damage.Even before positive cases reached Iowa, the hospitals in Sioux City started preparing for the inevitable. Susan Unger, the President of St. Luke's Foundation recalls a preparation meeting just days before cases reached the hospital. "You could just see it moving across Interstate 80 and knew that it was happening and the weekend that it happened when I came in on that Saturday morning, it was just that moment of anxiety where it was here. Our numbers just shot up. We knew it was time. And then everybody just kind of hunkered down."
The first positive COVID-19 case was confirmed in early March. UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's and MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center saw their first inpatient cases shortly after.
Lynn Wold, the CEO of UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's walked us through what the spring brought to Siouxland. "We were kind of a hot spot in Sioux City. When you look back at probably the 3rd or 4th week of April through May, we were one of the hotspots in the state of Iowa and the region."
Dr. Sandeep Gupta has been part of the critical care team at UnityPoint Health-St. Lukes. He told us, "most of the COVID patients that get admitted to the COVID units have a lot of injury to the lungs."
Clinical care in hospitals has shown that COVID-19 is a respiratory virus. Most infections are considered mild but others are much worse and require extensive treatment. Dr. Gupta elaborated on the more extreme cases stating, "they get a lot of inflammation and lung damage. They require oxygen so that's the most common findings we are seeing in the COVID unit is patients requiring a lot of oxygen. Some get away with using just nasal oxygen, some of them require the use of an invasive mechanical ventilator which is a breathing machine that helps breathe for them."
Dr. Gupta says he has seen patients with COVID-19 put off their care, trying to ride it out at home. "We have people that are contracting the virus, they are getting sick at home and they are staying home. So one of the things we are requesting people is if they get sick, they get short of breath and they have real trouble breathing, they should come to the hospital sooner rather than later because the people who we are seeing now, who are not able to make it, are the people who are staying longer at home and trying to fight it longer by themselves."
With newly emerging viruses, like COVID-19, care is unknown to start and is rapidly changing.
Dr. Subrat Behera, the Medical Director for the Hospitalist Group for SCP Health at MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center, has cared for COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit since the first cases were admitted.
When thinking back over the course of the pandemic he told us, "we have definitely evolved a lot over the last 6 months. Initially, we were trying whatever information was out there. We got information from China. We got information from what they were doing in New York and other places in our country. As things evolved and as we found that certain therapies were more effective, we have changed our protocol accordingly."
The ongoing pandemic has changed aspects of the hospital outside of care, barriers were added between healthcare workers and their patients that weren't there before.
Dr. Gupta told us about those changes stating, "so in the hospital, life has been a little bit different. All of the protective measures, all of the barriers are there so that we keep everybody safe. The treatments have remained the same."
Treating those hit hardest by the virus has also taken a toll on the frontline workers. Dr. Behera told us "with COVID-19, our whole perception was ruffled to the point where we saw so many people not make it through it that we were disappointed, we were frustrated, depressed. And that has definitely been a mental strain on all of us, too."
Doctors here in Siouxland say there are a few simple things we can all do to help combat this virus.
I would just tell everyone to be careful. Let's not just take this as an easy virus.
Dr. Behera said, "It can be a passing infection in many but it can be fatal in many and it's very hard to predict who is going to get what. So it's better to just be careful, wear a face mask when you can, when you are in public, maintain a safe distance and hand wash, hand wash, hand wash."
Dr. Gupta has not only experienced working in the COVID-19 units but also wants to commend his fellow healthcare workers. "I would say that anyone who has worked in a COVID unit should feel proud of themselves and should be congratulated. It is a closed unit so to enter a unit, you have to have a mask, cap, a gown, gloves, and a face shield. These measures are taken to protect all of the personnel working there and also the patients so they don't get reinfected once they turn negative.
"And to provide the best possible care to the patient and I think the administration and the doctors and the physicians, though there have been times of stress, they have come out to be really good and I really commend everybody for that."
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On the Front Line: Life during the surge
SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Woodbury County and the surrounding areas saw one of the first hotspots in COVID-19 cases in the tri-state. Between April and June, healthcare workers faced unknowns and hardships that few could have imagined.
In part two of our six-part exclusive series, the Siouxland News team sits down with health officials and doctors from UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's and MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center for exclusive and extensive interviews about life during the surge from their eyes.
Chad Markam, the Chief Operating Officer for UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's, has watched cases jump outside the hospital and within their doors. He told us: We had 10 days between when we had 10 patients and we had 45 patients.
In those ten days, months of preparations went into effect and everyone knew it was time to buckle down. Susan Unger, the President of the St. Luke's Foundation recalled the moment when everything changed for Sioux City hospitals as patients arrived. "The moment I really realized how big this could be and how difficult it would be, sitting on a call as part of the UnityPoint Health systems and there were calls with all of the regions, and every day I kept hearing what was happening in our other hospitals.
"From Illinois to Wisconsin and into Iowa and that it was moving. You could just see it moving across interstate 80 and knew that it was happening. And the weekend that it happened, when I came in on that Saturday morning, it was just that moment of anxiety where it was here. Our numbers just shot up. We knew it was time. And then everybody just kind of hunkered down."
The UnityPoint team granted us access to the caseload over the last half of April into June. This shows all individuals admitted with positive test results, not just those being treated for COVID-19. Colors represent what department they were in.
Hospitalizations in Woodbury county rose rapidly in late April to early May. MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center and UnityPoint Health-St. Lukes halted elective surgeries and transformed areas into specialized COVID-19 care centers. These areas helped to keep non-COVID patients and staff safe as well as to keep the supply of personal protective equipment where it was needed most.
Dr. Subrat Behera, the Medical Director for the Hospitalist Group for SCP Health at MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center, was in these units every day through the surge. "Within the hospital, we diverted all of our resources towards managing COVID-19. Towards early detection, isolation of these patients, getting them to appropriate units, and then treating them," he told us.
Inpatients surged beyond initial staffing capacity forcing hospitals to redistribute staff from less occupied units to COVID-19 units. Markham worked with this process and told us, "during the surge, places from different units would go help the ICU, which normally in this hospital, pre-COVID, saw an average of 12 patients a day, we were up in the 20s during the COVID surge. There just aren't enough ICU staff to manage all the patients and so we had nurses and techs and people from other areas going to help in those areas that have an increased capacity."
He also told us how UnityPoint health staff from across the state stepped up to help here in Siouxland. "We had staff from Waterloo and Cedar Rapids and Des Moines comes and help. we actually had ventilators from our sister hospitals in those cities also shipped to us to help with our surge."
The hospital closed to all visitors and COVID units closed to everyone but the critical care team. Markham explained more about why, and how units were transformed. "During the surge, for those key areas like the ICU and the med-surge areas as well, we closed them and dedicated the unit to COVID patients. It was really to protect staff and to conserve Personal Protective Equipment."
For Dr. Behera, the surge was like nothing he had ever experienced.
It was like a different world altogether. Those were restricted areas. Felt like a war zone with everybody wearing their PPE like they were aliens. Almost like out of a movie.During the surge, all staff in the hospital faced hardships and changes. Unger experienced that exhaustion first hand. "Physically, the staff was exhausted. I think administratively, people were mentally exhausted. So you felt physically tired because there was so much you had to do and so much going on."
Dr. Sandeep Gupta, a pulmonologist at UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's, was treating patients through the surge. He told us, "Most of the COVID patients that get admitted to the COVID units have a lot of injury to the lungs. They get a lot of inflammation and lung damage. They require oxygen so that's the most common findings we are seeing in the COVID unit is patients requiring a lot of oxygen. Some get away with using just nasal oxygen, some of them require the use of an invasive mechanical ventilator which is a breathing machine that helps breathe for them. Plus, we are following all of the guidelines and we are following all of the latest recommendations from all of the big societies, from the CDC, from the WHO and we are using the latest form of treatments over here so anything that is available anywhere else, we have it here at our hospital."
Thankfully, inpatients decreased week after week late summer, but once again cases are starting to climb in September. Lynn Wold, the CEO of UnityPoint Health-St. Lukes let us know where they are now versus what we saw in the late summer. "We got as low as 2 patients in St. Lukes as far in-patients with COVID. That was mid-August. Now we've crept back up. Now we are in that 10 to 12 to 15, we just kind of ebb and flow in there."
At both Siouxland hospitals, healthcare professionals are using what they learned in the spring to prepare for the fall. Dr. Behera explained how that changes how we will function going into the winter. "We have put together a plan where we have extra staffing in place if we have to call them in. Our COVID-19 units that we had in place earlier, that have been dismantled because our numbers have gone down, are ready to be up and running at any moment. Most importantly, we have reserves of PPE that we need, because I think those are very important in an uptick of these numbers. So I think we are well prepared for winter."
This fall and winter the World Health Organization says a surge of cases is expected worldwide and hospitals in Siouxland are preparing in hopes to weather the storm for a second time.
Markham explained, "we’ve been trying to back to normal and at the same time trying to prepare for a second wave of patients and we are starting to see numbers pick up now. The things we are doing to prepare we are trying to get in place as fast as possible."
Even after our surge and before whatever may come in the next months every healthcare professional that we spoke to told us the same thing, that it is up to all of us to keep each other safe. In the words of Dr. Behera:
I think one of the most important things we can do for all of us, for the community is to maintain social distancing when we can wear masks when we can, proper handwashing when we can and I think that's the key to stopping COVID-19.
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On the Front Line: Patient care in a pandemic
SIOUX CITY, Iowa — A huge aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic has been finding treatments that are both effective and safe to combat an unknown virus. Protocols change daily and as the pandemic progressed new treatment options were discovered. In part three of our 6 part series on hospitals during the pandemic, we dig into how patient care changed for both COVID-19 positive and COVID-19 negative patients at the Sioux City's two hospitals.
The Siouxland News team sat down with health officials and doctors from UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's and MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center for exclusive and extensive interviews about patient care during the pandemic.
Lynn Wold, the CEO of UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's told us that while many things have changed in the past 6 months one thing that hasn't is where patient care is in their priorities. "Patients are always number one when they come through our doors. They are always number one."
Patient care has evolved over the last several months, as hospitals adjust to COVID-19 protocols, including the way doctors and patients interact. Dr. Subrat Behera, from MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center, looked back over the changes in patient care. "One of the major and I would even call it a weird thing that I noticed is that now we don't shake hands With patients. We always used to go in, introduce ourselves, shake hands and that human connection was always a very important factor. We treat people, we Don't just treat a number. When that happened, I think a little bit of the dynamic changed. I think it's going to be a new era until we get the vaccine until we get this whole thing taken care of."
And when treating someone who is COVID positive Dr. Behera says it feels otherworldly: Obviously, in the COVID ward, another factor that comes into play is our whole PPE equipment because we are coved almost like we are going to the moon or somewhere. That makes us even more alien and we try not to make the patients feel like we are aliens.Hospitals are quieter, too. Chad Markham the Chief Operating Officer at UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's told us, "I think the biggest change that the public would notice right now is just the lack of a public being in the hospital. which is it is a bit of a double-edged sword."
Visitors were almost nonexistent in the spring, now there are a few visitors but that change has been hard on patients, Lynn Wold told us about that, "It’s been hard for families and patients not having visitors with them."
Without that support system doctors like Sandeep Gupta, a pulmonologist at UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's has had to adjust how he interacts with patients and explains to them why his family can't be there with them. "We use a lot of empathy and compassion and try to reassure them that it's for their own safety and for their family members' safety, too."
They've turned to video conferencing when having family present isn't possible. Dr. Behera has utilized that new technology. "We try to give as many calls as possible to family members To keep them abreast of what's going on."
UnityPoint Health tests everyone who is admitted to the hospital for COVID-19. This helps to keep those infected separate from those who are not. And for those who are COVID positive, it can be a scary time. Dr. Behera told us "When we go into the COVID units, we do take care of them as any other patient. We do our best to give them the best possible care."
At the start of this pandemic, doctors didn't have the answers patients were looking for. Dr. Behera told us: They have questions, especially early on when they had questions like, 'what do you think will happen with me? what's my prognosis?', we didn't have that answer and that was awkward. It was also truthful but it was awkward because we didn't know what was going to happen because we didn't know how the patient was going to go from there. For those patients who are not COVID positive, they are asked to wear masks at all times, especially when interacting with hospital staff.
Despite high volumes of COVID-19 patients, hospitals say their patient volume has been down as people put off care. Lynn Wold, CEO of UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's hopes that people don't delay care an instead seek treatment without delay. "I think for the most part people are still leery. Understandably. They haven’t wanted to come back into a healthcare facility if absolutely necessary."
They are working around the clock to keep everyone safe. Lynn Wold told us "I would say to patients out there, it is a completely safe environment. We have gone to great lengths that if there is a COVID patient in the hospital, they are isolated appropriately and people are doing the right things in terms of cleaning and sanitation that nobody should be scared of coming into the hospital thinking they are going to contract COVID because they are here. We go to great lengths to protect our patients and our staff."
At the end of the day, our local frontline heroes are ready for any challenge they face with patient care a top priority.
Susan Unger, the President of the St. Luke's Foundation told us "I would tell them we are calm. We’re ready. We are providing safe care for them. We are providing it their way, whether they are at the hospital or at our clinics. We tell them to please wear a mask while you are here. And trust us. We know what we are doing, we got this.
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On the Front Line: Caring for the Caretakers
SIOUX CITY, Iowa — They have been the true heroes of this pandemic, working directly with those hardest hit by COVID-19. Healthcare workers are on the frontlines in the fight against this pandemic, but while they are treating patients who is looking out for them?
In part four of our 6 part series, the Siouxland News team sat down with care providers from UnityPoint Health-St. Lukes and MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center to look at the risks medical staff working with COVID Positive patients take physically, mentally, and emotionally. We also look at how those care centers are stepping up to help those who spend their lives helping others.
Lynn Wold, the CEO of UnityPoint Health-St Luke's, has witnessed the heroic efforts of his staff. "Working 12-hour shifts in full PPE, gowns, masks, gloves, face shields, that is taxing work. What they do anyway is extremely difficult, challenging work. And then you put people in full PPE and it makes it even more difficult."
All eyes turned to the fight against COVID-19 healthcare workers were the front line of defense. Dr. Sandeep Gupta is a Pulmonologist at UnityPoint Health-St Luke's and told us what it is like working with critically ill COVID-19 patients.
When you have a patient in the ICU, very sick and the treatments are not working and the disease is continuing and causing a lot of damage to the body, and things don't continue to work, it puts a lot of stress on the caretakers of the patient because they are involved in their care. Unlike better-known diseases, treating COVID-19 patients was unknown to start. Globally, doctors worked to find effective treatments and that set of unknows took a toll on physicians and patients. Dr. Behera from MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center said, "We as healthcare workers, physicians, nurses, anybody, are trained to treat people. We like to see people get better and go home. We know that when we treat people for pneumonia, CHF, COPD, a lot of conditions, we know that when we give them these medications, they will get better. At least 99% of patients do get better. There will be some that won't make it through it, but most of them should."
Even with personal protective equipment in use, providers were exposed to the virus, but the danger wasn't only for the frontline workers but for their families as well.
Wold has watched his employees face these challenging decisions. "At the time that we were going through it, they have families they go home to. Are they bringing anything home? There was a lot of psychological stress for them. They wanted to be here working, serving their patients, but yet they have lives, they have families and how do you balance that? Do what’s right for the patient, keep our staff members safe but hey have them go home and try and live a normal life. It was a very delicate balance."
Dr. Bahera said the experience was stressful for all. "It is stressful and it's not just stressful because we are taking care of COVID patients, it's also because our coworkers could be exposed. We also have this fear of taking this deadly virus back home to our near and dear ones and we try and we try not to do that. Maintaining the most cleanliness as possible when we use PPE."
Staff working in the COVID wards stayed there all day to preserve PPE. Chad Markham, The COO of UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's told us: I think working in those closed units, the staff felt isolated. They knew why we were doing it. They understood why we did it, to protect them. But still, they weren’t seeing us, they weren’t seeing the providers. So they did feel isolated.
Even outside of COVID wards there is little relief Susan Unger, the President of the St. Luke's Foundation said not seeing colleagues as often as before was a big change. "I think the hardest moments were that we didn’t have so much face to face. The staff wasn’t in the hallways. The cafeteria was closed. Our meetings were all virtual. So that connection that you get with everybody else, with your team members when you really operate as one team as we do, I think that was the hardest thing. We were all a little bit isolated from each other."
Cases are on the rise again, health officials worry that another surge is looming. "It’s a little scary when you’ve gone through what they did and you’ve come down from that, but then all of a sudden you start to creep up with the numbers of patients," Wold said. "I would suspect that there are several staff members that it worries them. Are we going to get back to the same situation?"
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On The Front Line: The Community Behind The Caretakers
SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Hospitals are the places where the community goes to seek help, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, Siouxlanders stepped up and gave back to those working tirelessly on the front lines. Their generosity didn't go unnoticed and in part five of our six-part series, UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's highlights some of their favorite moments of community support. They showed us how those acts of kindness helped front line workers get through their toughest days.
Susan Unger, the President of the St. Lukes Foundation, is used to seeing community members helping out the hospital, but over the past six months, she saw more support from the community than ever before.
The community has helped in ways that we never imagined.Hospitals serve their communities each and every day, but when COVID-19 hit, it was the community's turn to step up. Lynn Wold, the CEO of UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's, has watched is employees struggle through an unprecedented year in healthcare. While his employees were working their hardest, Siouxland stepped up to give back in any way they could, no matter how small. "We had people that were coming in saying they have some masks and they would bring in 5 masks or a dozen masks. All the homemade masks that were made and created. So it was readily a community effort rallying around the hospitals to support us in our time of need."
In March and April, a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was putting hospital workers at risk, and Siouxlanders geared up, utilizing their quarantine to make cloth masks. Unger told us, " the community, it overwhelmed us what they did with the handmade face masks. We received almost 10,000 masks from the entire community. It was a network that we didn’t know was out there."
Susan Unger and her team at The St. Luke's Foundation turned their focus on finding the PPE that was in short supply. "One of the things that we did in the foundation is reaching out to so many people in the community just to say, ‘do you have masks? Do you have face shields? Do you have gloves? Do you have goggles?’ And we were amazed over $400,000 worth of personal protection equipment was just out there."
It wasn't just PPE the community supplied but food, too. UnityPoint Health was able to feed its healthcare team two meals a day for 2 months thanks to community donations. Unger recalls one gentleman who came with his son to donate cookies, and she was met with another surprise.
"When I got there, he had purchased these cookies, he had bought some face cream, because if you recall all of the stories of how your face broke down from wearing a mask, and face cream and tied them on to every box of individual cookies. When I asked him, what prompted you to do this?
He said, ‘I got my $1,200 check and I don’t really need it so I spent it buying things to help the frontline workers at St. Luke’s.’"That was phenomenal to me that somebody thought to do that and just unexpected," Unger recalled.
While Siouxland's surge has subsided, the fight against COVID-19 is far from over and Unger says, hospitals still need your help.
We continue to need more personal protection equipment. Goggles, face masks, gloves, anything that you have in your business that you might be able to donate.Especially as the holiday season arrives the hospitals are faced with a double threat, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and flu season.
According to Unger, the need is still out there. "If you are looking at doing something to show your gratitude during the holidays and as we lead up to them, think about those front line healthcare workers. They are working 12 hours. They are in those warm outfits. Sometimes they don’t get a break and they need that time to just stop and have a nice, warm meal."
Through it all, the team at UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's are thankful that the community continues to help them through this global crisis.
Above all, the team at UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's is grateful for everything the public has done to support them.
"Just gratitude. Extreme gratitude to our community" Wold said. "There is so many people in a time of crisis and a pandemic like this. The fact that the community would really focus on the hospitals and recognize that we play a unique role in several aspects of life in our community. But in a health pandemic, we are critical."
If you look up at S. Luke's, you can read the words "You Matter", and Unger told us that is exactly what the community said to them.
"I think what the community said to us is what we’ve been saying to them," she told us. "You matter to this world. They really supported us by saying, ‘you matter,’ and did everything they could to help us."
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On The Front Line: Healthcare after COVID-19
SIOUX CITY, Iowa — The COVID-19 pandemic has made permanent changes in how we go about every single aspect of our lives. Some of these changes we won't know for months, or years to come but when it comes to healthcare some of those changes are already coming to light.
In the final part of our exclusive six-part series, UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's and MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center talk about the future of healthcare an what you might be seeing thee next time you visit the doctor.
Lynn Wold is the CEO of UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's, he has watched the organization change over the past 7 months.
We have permanently taken a little shift on our axis and we will never be exactly what we were before.The last 6 months have changed nearly every aspect of healthcare and Wold knows the importance of communication. "It’s about communication. What worked well for the staff and the caregivers and if they said, that didn’t really work well, we would prefer this, we think you should try this going forward, we would listen and make those adjustments."
Many of the changes are It’s very situational. I don’t think you can really throw a blanket on it and say this is the only way we are going to do it. Again, we’ve learned from our initial 4-5 week run with this."
Much like our business meetings even medicine has gone online, Wold believes telemedicine will change the healthcare industry. "I think the single biggest piece of that is virtual medicine. This was something that was kind of on the cusp of being more of a day-to-day reality but we have proven through this pandemic that you can receive medical care virtually with telemedicine, e-visits, connect with your provider and still maintain your health and receive care through your providers."
Inside and out of the hospital, telemedicine has made its place. Chad Markham the COO of UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's has seen the shift to telemedicine fist hand. "I think we will see a lot more telemedicine As well. as something we have inside the hospital, we never really had before so physicians can round on patients inside the hospital using a Tele-monitor. And then I think in the public too. Instead of going into urgent care."
Visitor access within the hospitals stopped during COVID-19, which UnityPoint Health says could lead to permanent changes. Wold believes that this change will be long-lasting. "I do believe that the number of folks and the amount of foot traffic that we will allow through our care facilities will be much less in the future."
Right now, elective surgeries and nonemergent visits are starting back up but even that is slow. Wold says healthcare centers are a safe place, even amid the pandemic. "We need to gain confidence that people can come to their healthcare providers, clinics, surgery centers, hospitals and it’s safe," he said. "It’s a safe environment."
Lessons weren't only learned in clinical care but also emotional care. Susan Unger, President of the St. Luke's Foundation has seen some of those lessons firsthand.
"I think the biggest lessons that we’ve learned are when to follow your heart and when to follow your head," she said. "And those are hard when you are on the front line.
"We heard some pretty difficult stories that it is very hard when you have two patients you are taking care of and you know somebody might not make it and you know another one will, and learning how to help those team members. I think the other lesson was that the work that we do every day all year is what got us through. To be able to do what we do and just, we were there. Everybody was there."
Until a vaccine available and in wide use, it is up to everyone to help slow the spread. Sandeep Gupta, a Pulmonologist from UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's has been working with some of the areas sickest COVID-19 patients.
"It is very unpredictable, so we will not know how much damage it can cause to patients," Dr. Gupta said. "So there will be people walking around who will be carrying the virus and who will be sharing it and they wouldn't know. Nobody else would know that they would have the virus."
He reiterated how wearing a mask is crucial to keeping the community safe: The only way to protect other people from them is that they wear the mask. And that can only be helped if everybody wears a mask, so that everybody gets protected because we don't know who will get sick, who will get really sick and who will not make it from this."
The next 6 months will be critical for all of us in this community," Unger said. "The most important thing that I can ask the community to do is please wear a mask. No matter where you are, wear that mask and social distance. We’ve shown that it works, we know that it works so please do that. It’s simple. We know it might feel inconvenient but we can’t stress it enough how important it is to wear your mask."
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