Back to a new normal: A community perspective
Dr. Heather Leisy, director of preventive medicine
The coronavirus, COVID-19, is widespread throughout our community. Fortunately, it appears social distancing efforts have slowed the peak to a plateau.
We are now in a phase where we are addressing the slow reopening of our state, while understanding that many vulnerable populations may still be affected. As your community health center, HopeHealth is taking steps to support our community during this phase, caring especially for populations most at risk.
Community health centers are a core safety net of providers for society’s most vulnerable people. They are critical partners in achieving population health objectives with collaborating health departments. Like many diseases, COVID-19 mostly affects those individuals with known health disparities, such as minorities and underserved populations. Within our own communities, HopeHealth has seen a higher positive COVID-19 case rates in minorities:
These trends are recognized throughout the nation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that, of those hospitalized, 33 percent were black while the community representation is only 18 percent. Additionally, from New York City’s report of COVID-19-related deaths, these two minorities are most affected:
Blacks — 92.3 deaths per 100,000 people
Hispanics — 74.3 deaths per 100,000 people
Whites — 45.2 deaths per 100,000 people
Asians — 34.5 deaths per 100,000 people
According to the CDC, the reasons behind these disparities in COVID-19 illness can be related to a variety of broad factors, including living conditions, work circumstances, access to care, and underlying health conditions. Now is the best time to get chronic health diseases controlled by following-up with your provider, obtaining recommended vaccinations, eating healthy, exercising, and taking prescribed medications as directed. Leaving disorders like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease unchecked can have serious consequences later on.
Community health centers like HopeHealth address health conditions and access to care by providing the same services, regardless of insurance and ability to pay, for patients in some of the most rural regions of our nation. In addition, by implementing telehealth clinical visits, HopeHealth has increased this access for our 55,000-plus patients while maintaining social distancing and limiting risk of COVID-19 exposure to patients and staff.
So, how should people — especially vulnerable individuals — approach the reopening of our state? Cautiously. Continuing to practice prevention hygiene like wearing face masks and hand washing is important.
With reopening of public spaces, businesses have a duty to ensure sick employees do not come to work and interact with other employees or customers, along with ensuring extra steps in cleaning and disinfection are taken. When entering these reopened areas, continue to take care to:
Space yourself from others.
Avoid group gatherings whenever possible.
Wear a mask.
Avoid touching your face.
Be aware when handling frequently touched surfaces and items, like handles, switches, pens, and money.
Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer often.
As careful as you may be, if you do become sick, seek medical attention early. Call your provider’s office to discuss how you can access care without exposing others; you may be able to use telehealth to see your provider without having to leave your home. To learn more about telehealth, visit hope-health.org/televisit.