We need your help. Our health-care workers need your help. You’ve heard this plea now since March, but now we’ve reached critical status. We’re moving indoors and heading closer to the holidays that bring large groups together. The CDC is recommending a small dinner with only those in your household. Why? Because now is not the time to spread COVID-19 amongst families. If you haven’t heard yet, Idaho is one of the hot spots in our nation.

Last month I took a road trip with my 80-year-old father and my son. My son and I live in the same home and my father lives next door. We did not even think about the fact that we would be exposing my father on the trip. My son got sick with a cold two days after the trip. Thankfully for my father and I, it was not COVID-19. This was a close call. It could have just as easily been COVID. Think about what could have happened had we had the whole family together for Thanksgiving? Instead of three possible exposures, it would have been 25 to 30!

I know you are sick about hearing the word COVID-19 or masks or even being asked to social distance. I get it. But we are stretched thin. Our ICU is full and our staff is thinning with more out sick from community spread. We are calling in all reinforcements to keep up with staffing needs.

I often get asked the question — what is the end goal? Right now, we have to learn how to live with this virus and to protect as many people as possible while not putting others at risk and keeping our economic, mental, physical and spiritual health intact. That is a big goal! How can we reach this goal? With a safe and effective vaccine. Unfortunately, that is likely six months to a year from now before we have widespread availability.

Another option is herd immunity. This means enough of us have had the disease and develop resistance to it to tamp down the spread. This one comes with a huge cost. Many will have to die or be permanently injured for us to reach the goal under this method.

In the meantime we are in the race of our lives. We are trying to protect our neighbors, our communities while we wait for a more solid treatment plan or safe and effective vaccine. We can affect the outcome by each being personally responsible and making changes that decrease the spread to not create overwhelming waves of infections. We all need to do our part — wear masks when we cannot socially distance, wash our hands frequently and keep our social groups small in person (or in the case of the upcoming holidays, our immediate households).

Bottom line – we need to work together to beat this. We need to be kind to each other and give space for others’ beliefs and attitudes. With grace and hard work we will be able to endure and reach our goal.

Let’s make 2020 a year of new, household holiday traditions and save the big celebrations for 2021.

Dr. Richard Augustus is the Chief Medical Officer at West Valley Medical Center. The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily represent those of The Argus Observer.

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