Local IE medical students discuss the current state of the pandemic

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Missed holidays and celebrations, quarantining and isolating, long hospital stays, and the loss of precious loved ones marked 2020 and 2021 as treacherous years for many of us. With the advent of yet another year, it is safe to say that most of us are exhausted. We want nothing more than to go back to some semblance of normalcy, but with the recent news of surging cases, it can often feel that we are moving backwards. This is especially true for essential workers, but no one is unscathed. That desire to go back to normal is completely understandable, but it doesn’t negate what is currently happening – or excuse us from taking action. 

What’s going on with omicron in the Inland Empire?

There is a floating narrative that the omicron variant, though highly transmissible, is nothing to worry about. However, COVID still poses a very real threat to our community. We are in the midst of a major surge right now:

  • 1,724 confirmed new cases in San Bernardino County just on Feb. 8, 2022, compared to 609 new cases on Dec. 8, 2021, before the omicron wave took off
  • Omicron’s case fatality rates are far lower than what we experienced with the earlier strains, but the case rate is far greater
  • At Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, nearly 70% of hospitalized COVID patients are unvaccinated, and of those who are vaccinated, almost none have received the booster

How do we get out of this pandemic?

Vaccines offer excellent protection against severe disease and hospitalization, even with the Omicron variant. We all believe that it won’t happen to us or to our loved ones, and tragically, so many families have had to learn that that’s not true. Some of the most devastating cases are those of pregnant women with COVID, who are almost twice as likely to experience stillbirth, according to national data. 

And even beyond the risk of individual illness and death, there is the undeniable fact that our choices affect the community around us. To make sure that schools stay open, that young children and the immunocompromised are safe, that people can receive life-saving non-COVID care, we all need to do our part. That means getting vaccinated/boosted, and continuing to wear masks in indoor public settings.

Why should I get vaccinated/boosted if I might get sick anyway?

It is completely reasonable to ask this. And it’s true that even those who are vaccinated are at risk for illness. This can be hard to hear, but the difference is that the vast majority who are vaccinated and boosted are avoiding hospitalization. The data indicates that COVID hospitalizations consist largely of those who are unvaccinated. And for every COVID hospitalization, a bed for a non-COVID chronic or acute condition is unavailable. Those in our community who are suffering from heart failure or kidney disease, or those who need life-saving “elective” surgeries to remove their cancer, are not getting the timely care they need. 

Healthcare workers are overburdened with long hours, and the new CDC guidelines state that they are required to come into work despite testing positive for COVID because of the severe staffing shortage. As future physicians who have committed our time and energy to serving the Inland Empire, our community and our home, we see the current state of health inequity and understand that this is going to result in long-term health consequences for our future patients. 

We care about our community members, and we hope that each of us can take this step to demonstrate our care and commitment for one another and the people we love. So please, get vaccinated and get boosted. 

How do I get vaccinated/boosted? Is it safe?

COVID vaccines are safe, free, and widely available at pharmacies and county-run sites for everyone ages 5 years and older. Appointments can be made over the phone or online, and one need not present an ID card or have insurance. 

There’s no shame or judgment for having waited – it can be hard to make a decision like this, and people deserve to have their questions and concerns addressed. COVID vaccines do not alter DNA or fertility and do not contain toxins, human tissue, preservatives, or metals. For detailed explanations about the vaccine, discuss your concerns with a healthcare professional.

What should I do if I think I might have COVID?

If you are experiencing symptoms or think you may have been exposed to COVID, please get tested. Free rapid home testing kits are now available and can be sent directly to you. If you receive a positive result from a home test kit, don’t forget to report your results to the county following the instructions on the kit. 

Help us protect one another and start moving towards a time when this pandemic will no longer consume our lives.

Authors:

  • Dr. Adegbemisola Daniyan is a board-certified Internal Medicine Physician and Assistant Professor of Medical Education at California University of Science and Medicine. She is a graduate of Loma Linda University School of Medicine and completed her Internal Medicine Residency at Kaiser Permanente.
  • Arshdeep Kaur is a medical student at California University of Science and Medicine and a graduate of the Department of Population, Family, and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
  • Kimberly De Guzman is a medical student at California University of Science and Medicine and a graduate of the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science at the University of California, San Diego.
  • Priya Vedula is a second-year medical student at California University of Science and Medicine and a public health graduate from Columbia University.

DISCLAIMER: THIS OP-ED DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE
The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained in this op-ed are for informational purposes only. No material on this article is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read.

The authors do not speak on behalf of California University of Science and Medicine

*Opinions expressed may not reflect those of IECN.