REGION — With cases of novel coronavirus rising by the day in San Diego County, healthcare workers are diligently treating current cases and preparing for ones expected to hit in the near future. Their efforts aren’t going unnoticed — communities across the county have come together to show appreciation for these workers in different ways.
But, according to Dr. Kevin Shaw, an ICU doctor at Scripps Hospital in Encinitas specializing in pulmonary disease, some of these gestures could do more harm than good. A big one is food donations.
“If somebody happens to be infectious and has contaminated the boxes or the food or the packaging, and they bring that in, you could be potentially exposing a whole unit full of nurses or doctors or therapists or nutritionists all at the same time,” Shaw explained.
The problem is, he says, that with so many asymptomatic carriers, the staff has no way of knowing if the virus was in fact exposed to that particular tray of treats. As one of the lead doctors working with current COVID-19 patients, Shaw and his team are constantly focused on keeping healthy so they can prepare to take on more cases.
“It’s very challenging, because we are truly resource-limited, and all the stories and online petitions that people are seeing about personal protective equipment being short is 100% true,” Shaw said.
So while outside cookie trays aren’t so helpful, donated personal protective equipment really comes in handy. After donated items get dropped off, they remain untouched for several days, which dramatically reduces the risk of any coronavirus being left on the materials.
That’s why homemade cloth face masks and face shields are proving so helpful for medical professionals.
In Scripps Ranch, Bob Ilko, president of the Scripps Ranch Civic Association, rallied himself and others to use 3D printers to make face shields for hospitals across the country.
“I think we’re way over 1300 face shields,” Ilko said. “I picked up another 80 this morning, and there’s another 50 in my driveway that needs to be assembled.”
Shaw and his team said these donated shields are incredibly useful.
“When you’re in a room with somebody who has coronavirus, especially if you’re doing high-risk procedures and people are in there coughing, you need something in front of your eyes,” Shaw said. “So this is a big, clear shield that protects your entire face, chin, neck and eyes … and this is all this is all from the community.”
Hospital workers appreciate all the love they’ve received from their communities, but many agree that the best way to support them is to just stay home.
When people attend large family gatherings and work meetings, they risk contracting the virus from an asymptomatic carrier — and that, according to Shaw, is what will keep the hospitals filling up with COVID-19 patients. Social distancing works, he says, and he encourages San Diegans to stick with it.
“The best way you can help your frontline healthcare workers is to comply with staying home — avoiding dinner parties and get-togethers,” Shaw said. “I think that is why the coronavirus burden in San Diego is at the moment tolerable and hopefully will be tolerable for the foreseeable future.”