LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Nurse and former resident speaks out

To the Editor:

As a nurse and author of over 10 books, an editor for three peer-reviewed Journals, and a health care consultant, I had to write. As the state has “opened,” it is my duty to address several issues for the safety and protection of us all during this pandemic. The virus solely lives to infect. From a practical perspective, what this means is that life as we knew it may not be “back to normal” no matter how hard we try or want. I predict that we will be wearing masks and employing social distancing well into 2021. In fact, even though there may be an effective vaccine released sometime in 2021, just like the flu (influenza) and pertussis (whooping cough) people will still get infected and sick. Vaccines may not convey 100 percent protection. Many of us exceed age 65 which conveys a heightened risk for severe COVID-illness.

The problem with COVID is we are still learning so much and “how” sick someone gets can be a different answer for everyone. Unlike the flu, it can impact any body system, not solely the lungs. It is also a disease that impacts blood clotting, cardiac, brain, renal (kidney) and more. This is the first time we have a new term for the patients who must live with the chronic sequelae of this disease –the “long haulers”. And age is no protection. Over 549,000 children have been diagnosed with COVID (www.covkidproject.org), and its impact is more serious than previously known. According to a study published in the JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), the impact of COVID-19 showed that 1 of 5 hospitalized patients in this group (young adults) required intensive care and many needed continuous medical care adults between 18 and 34. In another study, “well” college athletes were found to have signs of inflammation of the heart muscle. These were males in their teens and early 20s and some experienced no symptoms. I mention the younger population because the impact on older adults is better known. But the younger people also have more asymptomatic spread and transmission to other people, without symptoms, which is why masks and social distancing are key to controlling the pandemic. 

Simply put, we must treat all people like they are infected with COVID. Just because a person has no symptoms does not mean in any way that a person is COVID-free. 

I recommend a great book to read entitled “The Great Influenza” by John Barry. It is a science-based, riveting read about the 1918 pandemic. And some lessons learned that have applicability to now.  We can and must do better. We (still) need a coordinated and cogent Federal policy. Wear a mask and protect each other – that is the best, most effective anti-viral therapy we have at this time. 

Tina Marrelli, 

MSN, MA, RN, FAAN