What’s New With COVID-19… and How Have Some U.S. Veterans Been Comforted?
Ever since the coronavirus began infecting people in the U.S. last January, it’s been the number one topic of conversation.
Nearly every day we read or hear statistics regarding the number of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
Here and there we get a different spin on COVID-19. Such as new guidelines from the CDC, the prospects for an effective vaccine and self-testing at home.
But it always comes back to the stats. As of this writing, more than 11.6 million Americans have tested positive. And more than 250,000 have died.
Experts Say Coronavirus Will Be Endemic
You’ve heard these grim statistics before. But stay with me because in a moment I’m going to tell you how one U.S. veterans facility brought joy into the lives of its isolated residents.
In the meantime, I want to mention a word I’m afraid we’re going to hear more often in the future. The word is “endemic.”
Many of us have wanted to believe that no matter how bad COVID-19 is, eventually it will disappear. If we can just wait it out, we’ll get through this pandemic.
But health experts now say the coronavirus will become endemic. Meaning it will permanently exist in our population.
The New Normal
Vaccines and precautions may dramatically improve the odds of staying healthy. But COVID-19 is now expected to lurk among us for the foreseeable future.
If that’s the case, some of what we’ve hoped were temporary measures to control it might become permanent.
Such as face masks being worn in public places. Meetings conducted virtually instead of in-person. Large events canceled. Testing prior to someone stepping onto an airplane, bus or train.
Other protocols could include curfews in cities. And restaurants, bars and even grocery stores limiting hours and capacity.
Rapid At-Home Testing
Something gaining considerable traction these days is the topic of rapid, at-home coronavirus tests.
One of the reasons the COVID-19 spread has been so far-reaching is that many people don’t know they’re infected. Because they’re asymptomatic, they go about their normal routines, unintentionally infecting others.
If rapid home testing could be made affordable and accessible, those who test positive could save others suffering and even death by doing the right thing and quarantining.
The first such test kit – “All-In-One” from Lucira Health, Inc. – has been authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It offers results in 30 minutes or less.
But we’re a long way from this being an effective way to stem the tide. Right now this is only a single-use kit and the cost approaches $50.
Easing the Pain
In addition to making many people sick and killing some, COVID-19 has been responsible for considerable mental anguish.
Families have been unable to travel to be with loved ones. Even those who live close to family members have curtailed or shortened their visits.
Many nursing homes have locked down to protect residents. While that has helped keep some seniors healthy, it has also added to their loneliness.
Among those affected are U.S. veterans living in homes in various parts of the country.
Altered But Not Cancelled
At the New York State Veterans Home in the town of Oxford, residents have gotten used to an annual November celebration.
It has always involved a large gathering in the auditorium. Plus a concert and a community luncheon.
Groups supporting veterans organize the event. And spend time chatting with the residents at this facility.
But due to COVID restrictions, Veterans Day festivities were off-limits to visitors last month. That was not good news for 146 veteran residents isolated in their rooms. Including 18 World War II veterans.
Veterans Day Card Drive
Rather than cancel the event, however, recreation therapist Kristen Slate improvised.
She organized a program of prayers, poems and sing-along songs. It was broadcast over the home’s closed circuit television channel.
She also organized a card drive. She posted the request on Facebook with photos of the vets. The post was shared more than 2,400 times.
Before long, veterans started receiving cards from all over the country. From down the street to Washington state, California, Florida and elsewhere.
Kindergarten Class Pitches In
“I definitely was not expecting the response that we did get,” said Slate. She estimated that the home’s residents received more than 3,000 cards. “It’s been overwhelming.”
The cards were distributed to residents on Veterans Day. Including hand-written notes.
Some also included crafts, flags, banners, masks and hands-on projects for the vets to enjoy.
One envelope included cards made by a kindergarten class. As well as a photo of the kids making the cards.
‘A World of Difference’
The staff decorated their carts and made the rounds from room to room, distributing cards to the residents. They read cards to vets needing assistance.
Slate said the cards were very meaningful to the vets. Many of whom prefer physical expressions of kindness over virtual ones.
“It’s always been a really big thing for people of this generation and older adults to get cards in the mail,” she said.
“Especially being in the military, they always had someone sending them letters. Their family members will call or video chat with them. But I feel having that piece of paper or that card in front of them (makes) a world of difference.”
Folks, a vast majority of COVID-19 news will continue to be negative. But thankfully there are still some feel-good stories.