North Carolina reported its first COVID-19 case on March 3, and since then, the case number has continued to increase even five months later. Medical professionals and other essential workers have worked tirelessly to help patients and to do their jobs the best they can under the circumstances. Dr. Steven Saldutti, a physician assistant at Brevard Family Practice, spoke on what it is like to work in a medical profession at this time.
“I was practicing during the swine flu pandemic in 2009, and this pandemic is completely different,” Saldutti said. “We’re wearing masks all day, patients are wearing masks. We went from working eight hours a day to working three hours a day and five hours a day, and now we’re back up to eight hours a day. You would think that my job is pandemic proof, but It’s not. They laid a lot of people off and cut a lot of hours for a lot of health care providers.”
Despite not being a case hotspot, Brevard and the surrounding areas were still hit hard by the virus, and health care offices had to make a few changes to adapt.
“We now have something called respiratory clinics, where in the last hour of the day patients who have any kind of respiratory complaints we see at the opposite end of the office,” Saldutti said. “And it has its own entry so they’re not exposing the folks in the waiting room.”
Even with all the precautions health care offices are taking, virus testing and spread prevention methods are not perfect.
“I had a patient come in at about 10:30 in the morning. She honestly looked like she had been hit by a bus, so there was no question to me that she had the virus,” Saldutti said. “ I did the swab on her when you do those you should get it back in 24 hours. The test results didn’t come back for five days, and while we tell our patients to self-quarantine, we have to rely on the honor system because we can’t really force them to stay home or check on them. She tested positive, and when we tried to get in touch with her, all the numbers she gave us turned out to be invalid. So we couldn’t get in touch with her, and we knew she was a housekeeper, so she probably kept working and possibly spread it to several other people.”
The pandemic itself has been highly controversial, with debates on whether masks are necessary and if the virus is legitmate being heavily divided by political party lines. President Donald Trump has produced mixed reactions from the American people regarding his management of the virus.
“I think he’s handled it relatively well, from certain standpoints, but his verbal response has been incredibly immature,” Saldutti said. “He called the virus the kung flu and not only is that ignorant, but there’s been a big fallout on Asian Americans because of his comments, and that’s just unacceptable.”
The United States is five months into a global pandemic, and despite many people’s best efforts, case numbers have only increased. Medical professionals recommend staying home when possible, wearing a mask when going out in public, and getting tested if you are experiencing symptoms. It is important for everyone to do their part in ending the pandemic as quickly as possible.
“If you’re sick, the best thing you can do is stay home,” Saldutti said. “Protect yourself and others by being as careful as possible.”
By: Emily Chambliss, Editor-in-Chief