The medical providers (physicians, PA’s, nurse practitioners, and nurse anesthetists) of Box Butte General Hospital would like to take this opportunity to share with the people of Box Butte County our concerns regarding the recent significant increase in COVID-19 cases. In just the past 3-4 weeks, we have seen an unprecedented and alarming number of cases, as the total number of cases in the panhandle has doubled from the number of cases documented between March and the beginning of October. We are concerned that as cases continue to rise at the current rate, BBGH and the other hospitals in the panhandle are becoming overwhelmed. It is increasingly difficult to transfer patients for COVID or other illnesses as receiving hospitals are commonly near or at capacity.
We are joining together as medical providers to remind the community that COVID-19 is a very real and often very serious illness. While it is true for most people COVID causes a mild illness, it is also true for many that it can be quite severe and debilitating. We are seeing hospitalizations in our community of otherwise healthy individuals who require up to a week or more of inpatient care before becoming stable enough to return home, and then often still require oxygen for an extended time at home. We also see with the extended hospital stays that COVID-19 often causes, our hospital is fuller, as these patients require beds that are also needed by patients with typical illnesses, chronic medical problems, and surgeries that have always been and will continue to be present in our community.
With these things in mind, we are strongly urging the community to view the COVID-19 pandemic with the seriousness it deserves. It has been proven over and over again that large gatherings and crowds with many people in close proximity to others are where the virus spreads most quickly. When one case spreads the virus to several others at a large gathering, versus just one or two others as we might see with quarantine at home, we get exponential increases in cases. It has been shown that the wearing of face coverings/masks by everyone significantly reduces the transmission of the virus. We understand the feeling of some individuals that “masks don’t filter the microscopic virus particles and are thus ineffective,” but we would like to dispel this myth. Although it is true that a cloth or surgical mask does not filter all of the virus as well as an N95 respirator, the cloth and surgical masks DO work to keep any oral and nasal secretions contained, and allow only a fraction of the transmission that would otherwise occur if it were not worn. Masks are highly effective in reducing transmission when they are worn by everyone in a group. When only worn by a few, they are virtually ineffective. When masks are not worn by all, quarantine is necessary to prevent further transmission.
Therefore, the community needs to take action now. We do not propose shutting down businesses or schools, but in order to keep functioning as close to normal as possible, we ask that everyone in the community wear a face covering when in any public place, business, event, in school, or in places where you are potentially within 6 feet of anyone who is not in your immediate household. Use a clean or new mask every day, and replace sooner if it becomes soiled. Ensure the mask covers your nose AND mouth, and avoid touching it as much as possible. Try to maintain a 6 ft distance from others as much as possible when in public. Avoid attending or hosting large gatherings right now as much as possible. Wash hands frequently and/or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after being in any public place.
We know we live in an amazing community of wonderful people who have stepped up over and over again to help each other. We can beat this pandemic together if we work together. If we look at this as helping our neighbors weather the storm, we are confident that the COVID-19 virus will be no different than any other event we have faced. So please, take the simple steps we know help stop the spread of the virus: wearing a face mask, maintaining physical distancing, and washing hands. Again, we as providers all choose to live and work in Alliance because we feel we are helping to build the best hometown in America, and we want to preserve that by keeping our friends, family, and neighbors healthy. Thank you.