I apologize in advance for my tone. But I am a very tired doctor who has witnessed too many cases of Covid-19. Thankfully, most are benign, but some are tragic. Perhaps the answer to the question of why Danbury is an epicenter concerns the fact that the city has so many essential workers – those who must work no matter the risks or consequences. Or is it because Danbury has so many people who stretch the rules?
2020 has been a difficult year. So many sacrifices. So much suffering. So many rules.
I hope that those of you reading this have not suffered the permanent loss of family or friends, and I hope you are healthy. This pandemic affects people differently, apparently randomly. Some barely have cold symptoms, some have a bad pneumonia, some are hospitalized, some have died, yet many have no symptoms at all. But they all have one thing in common. They pass this virus onto all those around them for weeks, just by breathing.
This is how your actions can affect someone quite removed from you. To use a well-researched example, there was a wedding in rural Maine attended by 55 people at which 30 individuals caught Covid-19. No one died. But the people who caught the virus at the wedding then spread it to 177 people, with 7 people hospitalized, 7 people dead, including an outbreak at a nursing home and a correctional facility.
The rules are simple, yet difficult. First, wear a mask everywhere, even outside, when your path will cross someone else’s. Especially wear a mask anytime you are indoors, except in your own home, with NO VISITORS there.
If anyone comes inside your home, the neighbor, your child/ someone else’s child that doesn’t live with you, your friend, your co-worker, YOU SHOULD ALL BE WEARING YOUR MASKS.
Having a party for your one year old in your garage sounds like a nice idea. But I cannot tell you how many positive transmissions I have seen in Danbury from going without a mask to eat or drink, or socialize in a garage, or even outdoors. PLEASE have the birthday party next year. I promise your one year old won’t remember or care.
The second rule is to keep your distance. Whenever your mask comes off, you should be outside and 6-10 feet away from the next person who doesn’t live in your home. I think it is very difficult if not impossible to keep 6-10 feet away from others while eating or drinking indoors. So that is why we have take-out and share socially on Zoom.
The third rule is to wash your hands, often, for at least 15 seconds, with soap. Easy; we all have dry skin to show for it. But that means a level of self-awareness many are not used to. You wipe your baby’s nose, or tears, or mouth because they spit up. Before you touch the food, you’re preparing, or even your face, you must wash your hands. When you walk into the house from a day at work, a trip to the post office or for groceries, the FIRST thing you should do it wash your hands; then kiss your family.
Regarding door handles. There are many handles to open in the grocery store. There are handles to the church, doctor’s office, post office, bank. When you get in the car, use hand sanitizer, BEFORE YOU TOUCH YOUR FACE, because you can’t avoid touching all those handles.
There is hope. It appears a vaccine will be available to start immunizing those most at risk within a month. While we won’t be able to take masks off completely for months, or even a year from now, I think it will become much safer to start to have visits, and family gatherings again by next Thanksgiving. In the meantime, this will be an exceptionally long winter; the worst of the entire pandemic is perhaps ahead of us.
If you want your job to be there, your children’s school system to stay open, we must all give up almost everything else. Do not have in-person social contact. No one wants a complete shutdown as we had last March. But if there is no room in hospitals, that will be the only thing left to do.
Why is Danbury such a hotspot for COVID? All I can think of is that many of us are not following these simple, yet difficult, rules. Please do your part. Stay safe, be well, and wear your mask.
Dr. Ana Paula Machado is the president of the Center for Pediatric Medicine. For more information or to set up an appointment, please call 203-790-0822. Offices are located at 107 Newtown Road in Danbury and 11 Route 37 in New Fairfield.