Medical director of Danville hospital emergency department on fall sports, wearing masks, stress level for hospital employees

Dr. Eric Guerrant

By LARRY VAUGHT

Dr. Eric Guerrant is not ready to say it’s certain there could be high school and college fall sports. But it certainly thinks it is possible.

“I think we have reached a point where probably there is widespread (COVID-19) infection,” said Guerrant, the medical director of the emergency department at Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center in Danville and medical director of the EMS units in Boyle County and Mercer County. “I think there are a lot of asymptomatic people out there and the vast majority are kids. At this point, it’s about protecting the vulnerable, especially the elderly with pre-existing conditions.

“It appears most transmission is occurring through close family contact. When people get packed in bars, restaurants, that’s where the transmission can be bad.”

Guerrant believes non-contact sports are fine to be playing now. His daughter, 15, has been playing softball.

“At some point we have to get back to normal or close to normal,” Guerrant said. “The past few months I have probably been exposed every day by thanks to safety barriers, wearing masks, having the right equipment I am fine.”

Guerrant says we should know more in a “couple more weeks” about COVID-19’s spread.

“We are starting to see more pediatric infections,” Guerrant said. “We have to make sure we protect the vulnerable. For football, if people wear makes and do social distancing, we have a shot at having football. In a couple of weeks I will have a better opinion. We are in the second wave (of COVID-19) we talked about and we have to get a better idea of if it accelerates.”

If there is football, will it be safe for a limited number of fans to attend? Would it be any more dangerous than a trip the grocery story?

“If you stay apart from folks, you will not be more vulnerable at a sports event,” Guerrant said. “If fans are packed in and they are all screaming and yelling … that’s how the virus is transmitted. Unfortunately, we are seeing that with churches where there are choirs and singing.

“So if you want to go to a sporting event, just keep your distance. Also put on a mask. So many people are bent out of shape about that but if you want a return to normal, that’s what we have got to do. It dramatically reduces (the spread of the virus) … I wear one 12 hours a day when I am working. It’s inconvenient. But we’ve got to protect ourselves.”

Guerrant says our community is in better shape to handle COVID-19 cases due to having more supplies, masks, equipment and even available hospital beds.

“Recently we were low on one-hour tests but previously we did not have any,” Guerrant said. “We are 10 times better off now than two months ago.”

One area not better, though, is the stress level of physicians and nurses along with those working in security, housekeeping, registration, lab, X-ray, and respiratory workers at the hospital has increased due to restrictions on visitors for patients.

“We are seeing a dramatic increase in people posting on social media and verbally abusing our staff for enforcing visitor restriction set by the hospital,” Guerrant said. “Remember the men and women are just enforcing hospital guidelines. Be patient with them. It’s as tough on them as it is family members. It’s difficult to make calls and walk to the parking lot to give families updates.

“These men and women are coming in every day making sure your loved ones are safe and being well taken care of. Being mean to them (staff members) is not helping. We are trying to help. Remember we did not create this situation.”

Guerrant and those in the ER are used to rushing out to help people in distress. Now they have to be more cautious.

“But there are times my nurses and techs jump in there and do what they have to do when we get a surprise or something very unexpected,” Guerrant said. “They put themselves at risk to help others.”

So what can we do to let them know their work is appreciated?

“Just be kind to them,” Guerrant said.

Sounds simple enough to me.

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