When the coronavirus first flared up throughout Maine final spring, most of the state’s frontline well being care staff have been scared by how little they knew about it.
Would they’ve sufficient face masks and robes? Would they carry the virus residence to their family members? Would they die from it?
And the way rapidly would the unusual new an infection storm throughout a rural state whose massive aged inhabitants was notably threatened by it?
The solutions to all of these questions have develop into clearer over the past eight months, because the virus initially surged from March by means of June earlier than tapering off in early July, inflicting barely greater than 100 deaths. From there, the state went nearly three months with each day COVID-19 hospitalizations remaining under 20.
However now, well being care staff are once more scared because the virus resurges in Maine, bringing document excessive numbers of hospitalizations and deaths throughout a a lot wider space. Their fears are related this time round, however extra rooted within the classes they’ve discovered in regards to the virus since final spring — and simply as essential, the teachings that others appear to have missed.
“People were scared in the spring, but it was fear of the unknown,” stated Sarah Bockian, a 39-year-old intensive care nurse at Maine Medical Heart in Portland, who has handled COVID-19 sufferers. “Now it’s fear of the known. This time, we know what we’re getting into, and that’s scary enough.”
The employees know that hospitals are secure locations when ample protecting gear is used, for instance, and that there are numerous therapies and therapies to assist sick coronavirus sufferers, equivalent to rolling them on their stomachs.
Additionally they know that group transmission of the virus will be drastically decreased if folks take easy precautions equivalent to carrying face masks, social distancing and avoiding indoor gatherings. Final spring, Maine’s hospitals weren’t overwhelmed by COVID-19 instances partially as a result of so many residents “flattened the curve” of latest infections by staying residence and following these different tips after they needed to exit.
However the unprecedented new surge appears to be a minimum of partly pushed by Mainers who now appear to be ignoring those self same precautions regardless of a drumbeat of steerage and restrictions from state and federal officers, maybe out of some combination of pandemic skepticism and fatigue.
Jill Bouchard, a 58-year-old homecare and hospice nurse with Group Well being and Counseling Companies, has encountered a few of these attitudes throughout her visits to sufferers of their houses round northern Penobscot County. Her protocol is to ask them to put on masks when she enters their houses, however a few of them can’t due to their well being issues, whereas others argue about it.
“They don’t believe the science,” Bouchard stated.
If issues keep on the present trajectory, the state’s hospitals may very well be swamped by extra waves of sick sufferers within the coming weeks. Like all Mainers, well being care staff will likely be at better danger of catching the virus themselves, simply from operating errands or dropping their youngsters off at daycare. That would trigger extra private stress for the employees whereas making it tougher for hospitals to employees their emergency departments, inpatient areas and ICUs as sick workers quarantine at residence.
“The outbreak is reaching our families and our communities more,” stated Bockian, whose job typically entails monitoring sufferers who’re hooked as much as ventilators. “A lot of people I work with are really stressed and scared.” She added that she’s “infuriated” and “baffled” that some “people can be so resistant to such a small thing” as carrying masks and avoiding gatherings.
Not less than 1,507 Maine well being care staff have develop into contaminated with the coronavirus because the begin of the pandemic, though the state doesn’t preserve monitor of what number of are thought to have caught it inside or outdoors the office. Generally, there doesn’t seem like nice proof the virus is circulating inside hospitals or clinics.
One of many contaminated Maine staff, an worker at Northern Mild Jap Maine Medical Heart in Bangor, simply died after catching the virus out in the neighborhood, in line with Suzanne Spruce, a spokesperson for its mum or dad group. “The greatest thing we can do right now to honor the memory of those lives lost to the pandemic is to work hard to keep one another safe,” Spruce stated in a written assertion.
Many different well being care staff are pleading with Mainers to take preventive steps now that might reduce the quantity of people that find yourself within the hospital within the coming weeks, equivalent to canceling massive vacation celebrations this yr.
“The those who go round saying, ‘I don’t should put on a masks,’ if that they had household that works in a hospital, that handle COVID sufferers, they could really feel otherwise,” stated Cokie Giles, a nurse at EMMC who’s president of the Maine State Nurses Affiliation, a union representing nearly 2,000 well being care staff. “They may have to contemplate if they’ve a coronary heart assault and so they should go to the hospital and discover on the market aren’t any beds as a result of there are COVID-19 sufferers. They should stretch their imaginations somewhat bit.”
Dr. Brandon Giberson, a 33-year-old emergency room doctor who primarily works at Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick, stated that he initially apprehensive about catching the coronavirus whereas treating sufferers. That’s partly as a result of his twin brother Tyler, who is also an ER physician, turned very sick with COVID-19 final May whereas ending his medical residency at a hospital in Georgia. He suffered 31 straight days of fever and briefly needed to be hospitalized, however has since recovered.
As an ER physician, Giberson is usually accountable for intubating the sickest COVID-19 sufferers, a dangerous course of that requires sticking respiration tubes down their throats, which may trigger viral droplets to spray across the room. He should additionally make sure that extra secure sufferers will be safely despatched residence.
Giberson — who’s employed by a Brunswick-based doctor staffing firm referred to as BlueWater Well being and has additionally completed shifts at hospitals in Houlton and Augusta — stated that he now feels nicely protected by the respirator masks, face shields, robes, gloves and different protecting tools he should put on within the hospital, and that he’s extra involved in regards to the dangers of operating into maskless folks on the grocery retailer.
He famous a number of different challenges that he’s encountered all through the pandemic, together with the extra time it takes to don and doff protecting tools and the problem of forming a bond with sufferers whereas he’s suited up like somebody who “walked off a sci-fi movie set.” A rising variety of sufferers are additionally returning to the ER for extra routine well being issues after avoiding it final spring, which has added to the problem of dealing with the brand new surge of coronavirus instances.
Giberson is now involved that many Mainers will go to relations over the vacations although the virus is now circulating throughout many communities. If the each day transmission of the virus retains rising, particularly amongst extra weak populations such because the aged, it may imply longer wait occasions for many who are dropped at the ER and should be admitted to the hospital, Giberson warned.
“There could be a time when we become overwhelmed, and I think that will largely depend on how sick this wave of patients is,” he stated.