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"In Between Days": COVID cases surge but there is hope on the horizon

"In Between Days": COVID cases surge but there is hope on the horizon

Dec. 9, 2020

By Mary Wade Burnside

Welcome to the “In Between Days.” Not only is it a great song by the (optimistically named perhaps?) band The Cure, but it’s also what we are experiencing now as the COVID-19 pandemic nears its ninth month since officially arriving in West Virginia.

We’re in between major holidays and also in between finding out if all that airplane and car travel to grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving is resulting in a new COVID surge, which at this point would be a surge on top of a surge.

We’re in between the time when the messaging was “Stay home this Thanksgiving” to “Stay home this Christmas,” or, maybe better suited to that holiday, “This is not the time to attend seasonal parties.” In fact, just this Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked Americans to avoid traveling during the winter holiday season.

To that end, we’re also in a time that looks very bleak, with not only the number of COVID cases going up, but also hospitalizations and deaths.

Remember in mid-July, four months into the pandemic, when West Virginia hit the first 100 COVID-related deaths and it was considered a grim milestone? In just the past five days, from Saturday to Wednesday, Dec. 9, 102 deaths have been reported. One man was 36; a woman whose death was reported a week ago was 25. Now we’re at 901 deaths and the rate does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon.

And as of today, Monongalia County is at 1,142 active COVID cases. That’s 30% of all of Monongalia County’s cases so far from the beginning of the pandemic, 3,796.

These are dark days, indeed, not only figuratively, but in reality, as we await the winter solstice’s arrival in two weeks and then wait some more until we can really see the days growing lighter.

But there is also another approaching light on the horizon, in the form of COVID vaccines that as of now are waiting for emergency approval this week from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). 

While 2021 won’t bring an immediate fix, things should start getting better as vaccinations are rolled out in tiers, to health care workers, first responders and high-risk individuals and then the general public.

So we really are experiencing the In Between Days. We’ve made it to this point. We know pandemic fatigue has more than set in. And we just need to sit tight a little longer.

You know what that means. Wear your mask. Practice social distancing. And even though it hasn’t been mandated, consider honoring the colder, darker season and also being wary of the pandemic by staying home when you can.

And, of course, wash your hands. It happens to be National Handwashing Awareness Week. So while that seems like such a small part of COVID-fighting implements, it’s an important one.

It hasn’t even been two centuries since it was discovered that handwashing was an important component in stopping the spread of infection and, therefore, deaths.

In 1846, Ignaz Semmelweis, an Austrian physician, noticed a higher rate of death in women giving birth in a doctor-run maternity ward compared to that of the one run by midwives. He investigated and learned that doctors were attending births right after performing autopsies. The death rate dropped dramatically after he instituted strict handwashing protocols.

In the following decade, during the Crimean War, nurse Florence Nightingale arrived and implemented thorough handwashing at a war hospital. Once again, the number of deaths plunged.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t until the 1980s when a series of foodborne outbreaks and other health-care associated deaths prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to promote hand hygiene more actively.

​Because of advances in science, laboratories were able to roll out COVID vaccines in a record amount of time. And because of science, we also know that we have some tools in our toolbox that we can use during — and following — these In Between Days.

Mary Wade Burnside is the public information officer at Monongalia County Health Department.

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