Guest Op-Ed: My Experience With ‘The COVID’

Coronavirus. Corona. ‘Rona. COVID-19. ‘The COVID’. No matter the name this virus is called it holds deep and serious repercussions for our entire world. I would like to share a bit of my experience with ‘The COVID’, as I choose to refer to this pandemic. My pre-existing health issues are on this WHO and CDC list of folks who should take additional precautions to prevent illness. Having this knowledge, I began staying home early on, self-quarantining to lower my potential exposure to ‘The COVID’. My family strived to be vigilant with all precautions. We masked, washed, disinfected constantly. Our family limited our interactions. We practiced physical distancing. However, this highly contagious virus still managed to reach me in my seclusion. I began to feel off. Brutal headache, feeling incredibly tired and a minimal cough started my symptoms. Three to four days later, a high temperature arrived. I reached out to my doctor. I was tested within 24 hours of my call. Within 30 hours, I had my test results. Positive for Coronavirus. I had ‘The COVID’. I was spinning. Oh, no, who did I infect? Who could have shared their germs with us? How did this happen? Am I one of the people who will die? Began thinking, oh no, my young adult children have asthma, my brother diabetic, have I infected them? Will they get sick? Will I lose people I love?

I began deeper isolation, I stayed in my bedroom. Rarely left the confines of that space. I was in ab-solute fear of spreading the virus, hurting anyone else. I am accustomed to these types of precau-tions, having gone through my personal journey with Breast Cancer. Neutropenia, a condition in which your body has little to no immunity, affects many who undergo chemotherapy treatments. Those who become neutropenic must take serious precautions to survive during treatment and be-yond. I lived in that reality before. So, the wearing of masks and staying secluded, as hard as it is, was something my life experience had already prepared me to endure again. The phrase, “We got this!” is a motto our friends and family adopted long ago and returned in full force with a positive diagnosis of ‘The COVID.’ The luxury of technology, of cell phones, computers and the now common place zoom calls, insured my isolation was not lonely. I am blessed. I have a tribe who is always present and willing to be there for one another. We can calm each other’s fears. Shop for one an-other. Friends, family, social media, and soon a new group of phone calls and texts began checking in daily. The Winthrop Board of Health, and its invaluable leader, Meredith Hurley reached out to me upon diagnosis. She asked the questions needed to begin contract tracing, hoping to slow the spread and to alert anyone with whom I may have had interpersonal contact. Our entire household went into a 14-day quarantine. The Winthrop Board of Health assigned me a nurse, Tara, who texted or called me every other day to check on my health and symptoms. Sarko Gregerian, a dedi-cated Winthrop Police officer, and member of the Winthrop Emergency Operations Center, BOH team called me EVERYDAY. He called to see if there was anything we might need. How could the BOH help us? Help me? I was immediately overjoyed by the consistent presence of the compas-sionate staff of our Board of Health. I then though of how many of us in Winthrop were testing pos-itive. Thinking of how vital this team is to those who may not have their own tribe. Those who may not have the financial resources for necessities or who might be experiencing food insecurity. How vital a resource these folks are for human engagement, in a fear filled time of a potential life threating diagnosis. I cannot imagine, how with such a limited staff, this team was able to be pre-sent for EVERY person testing positive. Doing so, while all the while, still taking care of the re-quirements with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Still staffing the Emergency Oper-ations Center daily.

Continuously, preparing and disbursing educational materials to our residents on prevention of the spread and lowering the ever-growing curve of new cases. All the while creating and establishing ordinances and regulations for the safety of our residents and businesses. Additionally, being pre-sent for questions whether by phone calls or on a live zoom meeting broadcasted throughout the town on WCAT or social media. This team does all of this while having their own families, their own fear of expo-sure, their own lives. Some might say, this is their job. It goes far beyond their actions being a job requirement. This unprecedented pandemic has shown many inequities in healthcare, in pay, in available resources for many. The pandemic also showed a glaring need for additional employees on our towns Board of Health. ‘The COVID,’ does not seem to be leaving any of our lives any time soon. I would advocate to get better staffing for our BOH. I know budgets are insanely tight. I know our financial worlds are facing a depression. I cannot imagine the depression we would all face with the potential loss of life, due to a lack of the best possible professional staff members needed to keep up with the increasing needs of this department. We do not know what the Second Wave of this virus will look like. We do not know if you can be re-infected or if the mutations of the virus will attack those who already survived the First Wave. We as citizens need to personally be there for those who will need us. We must prepare our infrastructure to be ready for whatever the Board of Health will face.

I want to express my thankfulness to Meredith, Sarko, Tara, the EOC team and our Winthrop First Responders for their passion to keeping our town safe and healthy. I personally thank each of them for their enduring, dedicated interactions throughout my 40+ days of ‘The COVID.’ This global pan-demic is far from over. However, Winthrop is beyond fortunate to have the staff on our Board of Health to help us navigate and thrive during the pandemic.

Wendy Millar-Page is the Executive Director of the Revere Chamber of Commerce.

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