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Keep your distance: Health professionals remind public to practice social distancing, stay at home

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GALENA–Hypothetically, a hospital has two ventilators, says Dr. Beth Gullone, a family practice physician at Midwest Medical Center in Galena, and five patients show up, all in need of one of those ventilators. Three of those patients will go without and are, therefore, much more likely to die of COVID-19.

That’s a pointed example, one that Gullone hopes will make local residents pay attention and follow the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and the Illinois Department of Public Health to help “flatten the curve.”

“This (COVID-19) is going to be here,” said Gullone. “And people are going to get it.”

If social distancing doesn’t happen, Gullone explained, people are more likely to get the virus all at once and it will very likely overwhelm the medical system which does not have the capacity to care for that many people at the same time.

Flattening the curve through social distancing allows for more time to spread out the number of cases so that all patients can receive the care they need.

“The importance of social distancing is that you need to allow the health care system to absorb taking in people little by little,” said Gullone.

Gullone and Dr. Ralph Losey, chief medical officer at Midwest Medical Center, are begging people to pay attention and do what they’re told.

In the United States, Gullone noted, this is a foreign concept.

It’s been over 100 years since the

country has had to deal with such a huge spike in cases. She believes in the long run, social distancing will help.

Losey said it’s important to consider that everyone a person comes in contact with has the virus. The symptoms can present days later, so it’s safer to assume everyone has it. The virus isn’t moving, he said, people are, and that is how it spreads.

Losey believes, for the most part, people are doing their part to stop the spread.

“It’s just something we have to be thinking about all the time,” he said.

“People just have to value lives or luxuries,” Gullone said, noting that many of the things people think are basic are really luxuries.

Gullone knows that the guidelines are restrictive, but it’s for the good of everyone.

“As much as it is really difficult and straining, you have to stay home, in your own home,” she emphasized.

Gullone said that people–even if they live alone–really should not invite others over, even if doing so still keeps the number under three.

Go outside for a walk, she said, but stay away from others.

“No meeting people to go for walks,” said Gullone, noting that even those with the best intentions of staying six feet apart, probably aren’t going to maintain that distance throughout the course of the walk.

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The same goes for playgrounds. Just stay away, she said, from anything people have touched. The virus can live on surfaces for days. Don’t risk it.

It’s much better to keep in touch virtually with video chats and phone calls.

Losey emphasized that children shouldn’t be getting together to play, and carpooling of any sort shouldn’t happen.

Losey said there are creative ways to connect. Gather with friends outside–which is far safer than indoors–but make sure to keep the six feet distance.

“I think that’s appropriate,” he said.

Gullone also wants people who carry out food or have it delivered to be extra mindful. She knows restaurants are taking extra precautions, but consumers still need to be diligent.

Do it only occasionally, perhaps once a week, Gullone said. Wipe down the containers before bringing them inside the home, and even go as far as to empty the food into your own bowls. Make sure to wash your hands well before you eat–always. Try your best not to use cash because money carries germs. Ask to pay by credit card over the phone, or see if a check is acceptable so you don’t have to hand your card to someone.

Losey concurred, and added that people should wipe down their cars daily on the interior–anywhere they touch, including the seats–and their keyboards. He said that contracting the virus by touching isn’t as likely as inhaling it, but touching is still a known method of spread.

Gullone also said that she discourages visitors from coming to the area, even though that’s difficult for businesses. She feels for those businesses, for sure, but wants to make sure everyone’s best interests are kept in mind.

“We don’t have the medical facility and staff to take care of extra people,” she noted.

For those venturing out to get groceries or pick up prescriptions at the pharmacy, Gullone said to remain mindful and aware of the surroundings. Try to go when the store isn’t as busy, and only send one person.

Stay away from people in the store.

Losey added that trips to the store should be done during non-peak hours and minimized to try to prevent the spread.

“If you need to go back some time when there aren’t so many cars, you should do that,” he said.

Losey said Tammy’s Piggly Wiggly in Galena installed Plexiglas between the cashier and customer, a nice protection for everyone involved.

“That’s great because there’s no possible way at that point in the check out line to be six feet away,” said Losey.

Tracy Bauer, president and CEO of Midwest Medical Center, echoed Gullone and Losey’s sentiments.

“From my perspective, we need to be all in to protect our families and communities. The sooner we decide to be all in, the sooner we can go back to a new normal,” she said. “When I say all in it means staying at home with just your immediate family that lives in your home; not going to friends, not having friends over, not going to family gatherings, not hosting family gatherings, not shopping as a family.

“We are in a pandemic and the sooner we all take personal ownership for ending it, the sooner it will end. I have had several staff mention different things they are seeing on social media that causes a lot of concern and angst.

“Healthcare workers on the frontline want this to end in the worst way, as they are putting their lives on the line to save yours. So think of them the next time you are contemplating leaving your home for non-essential needs. We need everyone to be all in.”

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