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Please don’t forget the horrors of COVID – Los Alamos Reporter

BY JODY BENSON
Los Alamos

Editor,

Duncan Hammon’s letter to the editor reminds us of the horrific isolation and lost months (and lives) suffered by those living in care facilities. We need to remember what happened and use this hard-won experience to make sure we are ready for the next outbreak. Let’s not forget:

On Friday, March 13, the nation shut down as deaths from the novel SARS CoV-19 virus ravaged the lungs and hearts of people around the world. Individuals, treated by exhausted healthcare workers dressed in hazmat suits, have died. Then our doctors and nurses began to die from the disease they had so valiantly tried to stop. We have to remember all those gruesome images of rows of wrapped bodies in New York, of all the overcrowded funeral homes and cemeteries. And remember the videos of Italian military trucks transporting bodies to warehouses as the living Italians sang opera to each other from their balconies. New Yorkers, too, clung to their windows to bang pans to honor their healthcare workers. Here at Los Alamos, we joined in with our quintessential sound (besides the LANL traffic and explosions), and howled like coyotes at 8:00 p.m. in support of each other.

On Friday, March 13, because Covid was sucking the lives of humans in every state, our NM care facilities, offices, and schools closed while hoarders stripped grocery store shelves, and Smiths had a (was it 19 customers? sort of) limit who could be inside to follow social distancing arrows to stop people breathing on top of each other. That Friday, we thought we would reopen in two weeks. But the SARS CoV-2 virus – a bunch of brainless molecules, not to mention the ability to replicate outside of a host – thwarted us because it convinced us we didn’t need to isolate , to move away, to hide or to put our own human community before the viral spread.

Back to Care Facilities: On Friday, March 13, LARC (Aspen Ridge Assisted Living and Sombrillo Nursing Home) closed to isolate residents in their rooms to prevent the spread of disease. The staff have become family to the residents and, as family, many have restricted their social activities outside opening hours to help reduce their own chances of contracting Covid. Families stood in front of windows with signs or waved their residents to look down or, more technologically, talk to each other on cell phones. Staff served meals with disposable plates and cutlery in rooms. Activity directors went from room to room with snacks or, for Aspen Ridge Happy Hour, their favorite wine or margarita in a plastic cup. The orderlies (AC) took the residents out one by one for a solitary walk through the hallways. Friends and families hosted virtual birthday parties outside buildings with drive-bys, sometimes accompanied by county emergency vehicles, through parking lots.

Before the vaccine, as Covid continued to devour the elderly across the country, as Governor Lujan Grisham continued to impose isolation on try To protect New Mexico’s most vulnerable from those less diligent or aware of dying from the disease, Jessica Hefner, at the request of the LARC Board of Directors, devised a way to allow family members to d come in and take care of their loved ones. The program, “We Are Family”, has been approved by the state. He trained friends/family as CAs, and paid that they take care More precisely for their beloved. Despite furious complaints that no one could visit their families, less than ten people trained for this program.

December 2020: Sombrillo had a Delta variant outbreak and lost a resident.

On January 2, 2021, nearly nine months after the lockdown, LARC acquired vaccines for staff and residents. After residents received the two Moderna vaccines, they were “released” from rooms where, masked and socially distanced, they could meet again for meals and activities. The heroic LARC staff continued to tend to their burdens while at the same time, temporary workers from health agencies came in to fill the gaps.

Finally, a few months later (June 2021, I believe?), Aspen and Sombrillo opened to vaccinated and masked family members and friends. LARC knew when staff or a resident caught Covid even if the person was asymptomatic, because everyone was getting tested frequently and randomly. Unsurprisingly, since its opening, LARC has had several cases of Omicron.

So yes, thank you Duncan Hammon for reminding us how hard, lonely and horrifying these nine months of isolation have been for people in care facilities. And our elders who have lived long and have even more to contribute are, like us, grateful that LARC is still vigilant in keeping Covid out of buildings. Once again, the Greatest Generation shows their greatness: it’s their resilience, their patience, their sense of humor and simply their will to carry on while making the most of whatever happens.

Please. Everybody. Remember. Tell the stories of pandemic heroism: caregivers, rescuers and medical workers, Zoom teachers, those who kept our stores and gas stations open, janitors, letter carriers, linemen, delivery people , pharmacists, workers on farms, in slaughterhouses, medical equipment factories, even howlers and pan-bangers…. All those who supported each other and made the nation live. And particularly? Those who stayed alive to the rest of us to quietly confirm the hope that Yes We Can Endure All Things.

Thank you, our heroes. Thank you, our elders: Yes You Did. You taught us: Yes We Can, and for you and those we love? Yes we will.

John Smith

The author John Smith