December 9, 2020
Needless to say, most of us are so done with 2020, a year that started off with news from the other side of the globe of an emerging novel coronavirus outbreak. The threat seemed so distant, and many of us felt comforted that geography alone would keep this infection away from our shores. However, as the days progressed, it became increasingly clear that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was an emerging global pandemic with far-reaching impacts. The first documented U.S. case was on Jan. 19 in Washington state, and during the following weeks, the virus was taking hold in communities throughout the nation. Efforts over the following months to contain SARS-CoV-2 at the local, state and national level have not been particularly successful, mainly due to inconsistent compliance of safeguards that have been shown to mitigate the spread of this primarily airborne and highly contagious virus.
As we enter the holiday season, California, like the rest of the nation, is enduring the worst effects of this pandemic, with rapidly increasing COVID-19 case rates, hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and, sadly, loss of life. Many of us have been directly or indirectly impacted, having contracted or had family members contract the virus. Tragically, some have lost a co-worker, friend or loved one to COVID-19. Our normal patterns of life have been dramatically altered. We have given up on birthday celebrations, weddings, baby showers and other significant social milestones. Schools have shifted to virtual instruction, sports have been canceled, and simple pleasures like enjoying a meal out, going to the movies or getting together with family and friends have been scuttled. Many have shifted their workday from commuting to working from home. Sadly, many have lost their jobs as businesses have either closed or had to significantly reduce their workforce to survive.
What can we all do to get beyond the doldrums of this pandemic? First and foremost, please remain vigilant. SARS-CoV-2 is everywhere, and the likelihood of exposure is the highest it has ever been. All the same health and safety guidelines remain the same: wear a properly-worn face covering every time you leave your home, maintain appropriate physical distancing of at least 6 feet when around others not within your immediate household, avoid gatherings large and small, and that includes dinner parties and family celebrations. Avoid non-essential outings, wash your hands regularly, wipe down surfaces, and if you’re feeling ill in any way (fever, cough, congestion, shortness of breath, loss of taste/smell, etc.), maintain your distance from others, stay away from work, and get tested for COVID-19.
There is hope on the horizon, with several vaccines that have shown amazing efficacy against SARS-CoV-2 and will most likely be ready for widescale distribution into the new year. We are so close to getting over the pandemic, so please, do not let your guard down. It will be quite tricky as 2021 progresses, as every week more and more Americans are vaccinated, yet there will be a significant number still awaiting their turn. Those same safeguards previously mentioned will need to be maintained, even if you are vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2. Only until the overwhelming majority of Americans are fully vaccine-protected, and COVID-19 case rates decrease dramatically, can we begin to cautiously ease back to normalcy.
During this time of giving, in a year where each of us has given and sacrificed more than we can ever have imagined, it is understandably easy to say “enough.” Please remain focused and careful, and we will all get through this together. Please stay safe and have a wonderful holiday season.
Dr. James Chun
Interim Medical Director
Student Health & Counseling Services