The United States, one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, has lost over 500,000 people. These are more deaths than in World War II, Korean War and the Vietnam War combined. It’s a staggering number.
It’s hard to relate to a number — it’s easier to imagine the sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, relatives, and friends of each human being that lost their life from the coronavirus this year. I can also imagine the thousands that came to the end of their lives in ICU beds, without the benefit of their family’s support. I know the nurses did the best they could to provide comfort to those patients.
I think about all of the brave health-care providers working in hospitals, intensive care units and COVID units that came to work every day to take care of hundreds of thousands of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. I think about the nurses, medical assistants and doctors that tested and treated patients with COVID who came to medical clinics. I think about ambulance EMTs and firefighters who are first responders. I think about all of the essential workers in agriculture, factories and food services.
I also think about all of the scientists, virologists, epidemiologists and their support staff who have worked on understanding how this virus behaves and how to thwart it. There are many men and women who have stayed up late at night trying to determine how we can find our way out of this global pandemic.
It takes a world to bring order to chaos.
As a psychologist, I came out of semi-retirement to help children and adults who are experiencing increased depression and anxiety during this pandemic. My colleagues and I in the Behavioral Health department at The Everett Clinic added extra hours to support our community. The mental health of so many members of our community has been stretched and strained by COVID-19.
I have particularly dedicated my time to support older adults, living alone without nearby family. During the worst days, they are homebound, fearful of going out and contracting the virus. I have also seen scores of young adults, living and working from home, alone, who struggle to remain connected to friends and family.
These have been hard times.
So how can we lend a hand to our friends, family and neighbors?
We are not out of the woods yet. Masks, social distancing and hand washing remain important ways of containing the spread of COVID, particularly as more transmissible variants become more common. Our scientific community, represented by the Washington State Department of Health is an important resource. Let’s follow their recommendations. We need to continue to bring down the number of infections.
Vaccination. I feel so grateful that our scientists have created and tested vaccines that have been approved by the FDA for emergency use. This is an emergency! In the weeks ahead, it will be easier to schedule an appointment for one of three vaccines that are available. Vaccines help us protect ourselves and each other.
Help each other. We all have pandemic fatigue. But this is the time that we need to reach out to each other — to our neighbors, friends, family and community at large to lend a helping hand in whatever way we can. Some of my friends are volunteering at vaccination sites, others are helping older adults schedule vaccination appointments online, still others are volunteering at food pantries. Reach out to those neighbors who are alone.
This is the time to double down on taking care of each other.
Paul Schoenfeld is a clinical psychologist at The Everett Clinic. His Family Talk blog can be found at www.everettclinic.com/health-wellness-library.html.