Washington County has been grouped with 23 other counties as a hotspot for COVID-19 cases in the state.
The residents of those counties have been ordered to wear masks when in the public and restrict gatherings.
Of the 1,261 cases in Washington County, no less than 150 have been hospitalized and 25 have died.
Delta Regional Medical Center’s Dr. Maroun Hayek has seen many of those cases.
While in the initial days of the pandemic, a positive test with accompanying symptoms was a dangerous proposition, Hayek said the staff at DRMC have developed strong treatment regimens for the disease.
“It is a very treatable disease,” Hayek said. “But it is all based on Time-To-Presentation. If you start feeling sick, go to the doctor.”
While the disease is treatable, Hayek said, “If you get to the intubation stage, odds are not that great.
“It’s not a death sentence, but if you present (to a physician) at an advance stage it is.”
The treatments are intense and while Hayek wouldn’t say what the exact treatment regimen is, he said the doctors and nurses have gotten very good at treating the disease.
He also said the strain on the nurses is taking its toll.
“The pandemic has taught me a deep love and respect for nurses,” Hayek said. “They have worked so hard. They have worked non-stop for three months. They are exhausted.”
Though the nursing staff is exhausted, according to Hayek, there is no drop in the level of care or work being done.
But there is a way to help.
“It’s the masks,” Hayek said. “There is a huge debate and much confusion.”
Hayek says the debates tend to center around personal freedoms.
“God gave us freedoms,” Hayek said. “God gives us the duty to take care of other people as well.”
The masks are not going to completely prevent everyone from contracting the virus, he said, but it will slow the spread to a manageable level.
That Washington County is a hotspot for virus outbreak has come as a surprise to Hayek as it appears residents are complicit with the order to wear masks in public.
He can only surmise the masks are coming off at private gatherings.
Hayek offers Hong Kong as an example of a place where wearing masks has created a manageable number of cases and deaths.
As of Monday, there were 2,779 cases of COVID-19 and 20 deaths in the city of 7.4 million people.
“As soon as they heard about the outbreak,” Hayek said. “They put the mask on. This is a very densely populated city and they were able to slow the spread.”
Slowing the spread is the point of wearing masks, but, in other cases, allowing the disease to wash through a population can be effective as well.
In the cases of schools, Hayek said, he personally believes the children should be returning.
He said the pandemic will pass through the population of school-aged children relatively easily.
When schools are reopened, there will be an initial spike in cases, Hayek said.
“The children could go to school for a few weeks,” Hayek said. “Then we will see a spike in cases and shut down for a time.”
Hayek also said the number of people taking advantage of the free testing offered in many cases is not consistent with the number of people who actually have symptoms or have had exposure.
“Don’t get tested if you don’t have any symptoms,” Hayek said. “When we had the free testing there would be lines down the street of people and most had no symptoms. It simply clogs the system and tests are taking too long now to produce results because the system is clogged.”