Still time to change courses on COVID-19


By Ken Johnson, President and CEO of Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System.

January 1, 2020 was a typical winter day with the temperature hovering at 50 degrees. The first day of any year is a good time to resolve to make life better in the year ahead. Little did we know that a pandemic unlike anything we have endured in a century would upset our lives in ways we could never imagine.

To date, more than 11 million Americans have been infected with COVID-19 and approximately 250,000 have died from the virus. Kansas holds the unwanted distinction as having one of the highest infection rates in the nation.

Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System (HRHS) and its very efficient and well-trained staff of healthcare professionals are stretched to the limits in keeping up with the spike in the virus in this area. The same is true for all from the largest hospitals in Wichita to the smallest in the western regions of our state.
In our nation’s 245-year history, America has proven itself to be a global leader of innovation, so it comes as no surprise that two pharmaceutical companies have developed vaccines which are reportedly more than 90 percent effective. Kudos to Pfizer and Moderna for responding to this national healthcare crisis. Also, it’s reported that more safe vaccines are on the drawing boards.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 will not go away the day the first American is vaccinated against this virus.

Eight months into the pandemic, we are running out of time for a mid-course correction. As a high school coach admonishes a group of young athletes, “Let’s get back to basics for the long-term good of the entire team.”

The remedies to slow the spread of COVID-19 are the same as was reported at the onset of the crisis. We don’t need to make an expensive purchase. One pundit recently said, what we need is a good dose of self-discipline, which goes hand in hand with the old expression “short-term pain, long-term gain.”

Others have complained that a mandatory mask order is a violation of our freedoms, which allows us to decide what is best for ourselves. Perhaps, this is one time we Americans must pull together for the common good of all.

A few feel the nation should adopt a “Herd Immunity” or place resources in treating and saving the lives of younger Americans in lieu of caring for middle age or older citizens. At Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System, our mission is to provide all patients, regardless of age, with the same quality of compassionate care, which will always be our goal.

Our nation is blessed with tens of thousands of great scientific minds and they are close to unanimous in their advice, which is supported by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

If you will allow me to be a little repetitive from previous columns, below are some precautions from the CDC and World Health Organization (WHO), which have proven successful in slowing the spread of COVID-19.
—Avoid large events.
—Wear masks with two or more layers to stop the spread of COVId-19. Research indicates wearing masks protects those around you, and reduces the chance of infection by as much as 50 percent.
—Remain at home as much as possible and stay at least six feet from others.
—Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
—Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
—Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces daily.
Other tips are available on the CDC website.

The crisis has again reaffirmed what a great country we live in. Individuals and businesses have donated food to the needy. Zoom calls are now a norm for business meetings and even family reunions. Many tell about reconnecting with friends and family members they haven’t communicated with for years. This summer the Hutchinson Police and Sheriff’s department along with area churches and the Fire Department showed up at Hutchinson Regional Medical Center during shift change to say thank you to those responsible for treating COVID-19 patients.

This pandemic, like the one a century ago will have an end, and life will resume to, perhaps, a new sense of normalcy. In the meantime, let’s pull together for the final stretch of what seems like a long journey, and we will all be better for it.

Let’s all strive to enjoy a happy holiday season as much as possible and hope that 2021 will be a better year.


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