Written by By Dr. Stephanie Paulmeno, DNP, RN, NHA, CPH, CCM, CDPPublic Health Education Specialist at the Greenwich Department of Health
Nicole Lou, a science journalist and graduate of NYU’s Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program noted that as of 8 AM on September 16, 2021, our US impact from COVID-19 was a staggering 41,539,105 cases, and we had already lost 666,627 of our friends and loved ones to death from COVID (MedPage Today, 2021; based on CDC/Johns Hopkins figures).
These numbers are astonishing on their own, but I ask you to consider that those figures had risen by 171,334 new cases, and 2,664 new deaths just since the prior morning. It was pointed out that if we look at that figure against our U.S. population of 332,751,337(www.census.gov, 9-16-21), it equates to about 1 out of every 500 people in the U.S having already died from COVID since the pandemic began. This figure is rising by the hour and includes people from all segments and age groups of our population.
Although most children who become infected recover, the number of children very ill, hospitalized, being placed in ICUs, and dying has risen. This is a tragedy. Pediatric units and ICUs across the country are overwhelmed. Every child under 12 years in this country is unvaccinated, and we have many others who are age-eligible whose parents have not gotten them vaccinated. Those who cannot be vaccinated rely on the rest of us to protect them by getting vaccinated, properly wearing masks, and adhering to social separation guidance.
The CDC has been investigating the impact of COVID-19 on pregnant women and their unborn babies (CDC, 2021). They are using the information they and other reputable sources have acquired through this investigative process to help guide public health actions and to better inform health care professionals who give clinical guidance to pregnant women. I urge people to stick to bonafide scientific data when exploring their options and making what could turn out to be a life-saving or life-limiting choice. In May 2021, pregnancy was added to the CDC’s list of underlying conditions that increase a person’s risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Their findings indicate that not only are pregnant women at higher risk for contracting COVID and becoming very ill, but they are also at risk for having pre-term births that can jeopardize their infants. Pregnant women and their spouses may want to check out this current CDC guidance and information from the CDC website Pregnant and Recently Pregnant People | CDC before talking with their healthcare providers. Being an informed consumer is invaluable in this age of misinformation and false information.
One major myth that prevails is that the mRNA vaccines, Moderna and Pfizer, will impact a mother’s DNA. This is false. The CDC explains that these vaccines do not affect or interact with our DNA in any way. Messenger RNA vaccines (mRNA) never enter the nucleus of any of our cells. This is an important fact because the nucleus of our cells is where our genetic material, our DNA, is located. As soon as the vaccine delivers its antibody development “instructions” or “message” about how to create the needed antibodies, our bodies breakdown the mRNA and get rid of it (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/mrna.html).
The Greenwich Department of Health urges all pregnant women to talk with their childbirth specialists (MD, Midwife, Nurse Midwife) when making this important decision about protecting their own health and the health of their unborn child. The CDC recommends COVID-19 vaccinations for women who are trying to get pregnant, want to get pregnant at some point in the future, as well as for those who are currently pregnant.
What is it going to take to make us wake up and see the benefits of getting vaccinated, wearing masks, maintaining social separation, and of avoiding mass gatherings? Here in Greenwich where our population is 62,840 people, only 71% of us have gotten our first vaccine, and only 65.8% of us are fully vaccinated (CT-DPH/CDC). This is below the state’s figures of 74.9% and 67.3%, which is not yet at a level that will give us herd immunity. Greenwich is a caring community. Are we not our brothers’ keeper?
We need to get back to the basics of good infection control. Avoid people who you know are sick and protect yourself from all others. Assume that everyone you meet has COVID; man, woman and child! You will not necessarily know if someone does; they may not even know it themselves. If you know that you have COVID or have been exposed to someone with COVID, please be conscientious about maintaining your own isolation or quarantine, even if you feel absolutely fine. This is for the protection of others. You are already sick. We have so many high-risk people all around us, and getting infected with COVID can kill them.
If you have COVID-19, a contact tracer, generally from the Greenwich Department of Health will be calling you, monitoring you, and offering information and guidance. They will also be trying to stop the spread of transmission through contact tracing measures. Please answer the phone and cooperate with the person calling you. Everything asked is held in the strictest of confidence.
Lastly, just because someone says you can do something does not mean you need to do it. Use your common sense. Is wearing a mask really such a hardship when you are in group settings with strangers? Is it that difficult to wash or sanitize your hands frequently? Is going to a party or an event worth the potential risk in the midst of a deadly pandemic? These are decisions each of us will have to make for ourselves, so I urge you to err on the side of caution.