Rena Salamacha, CEO, Mee Memorial Healthcare System

Even as Covid-19 vaccinations roll out across the country, the daily threat from this virus remains — especially in rural areas such as South Monterey County.

We all need to remain vigilant, with a strict adherence to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rules regarding hygiene, mask-wearing and social distancing. And like any other new year, it’s a great idea to rededicate ourselves to keeping fit, eating well and staying healthy.

While it’s certainly vital to keep our focus on the short term — dealing with this day-to-day health care crisis — Mee Memorial Healthcare System reminds the community to keep a sharp eye down the road. One day the Covid-19 crisis will end — or at least vastly diminish — and the long-term health consequences could be dire.

It’s already difficult for rural areas to adequately address challenges relating to Covid-19. Many workers (most notably, farmworkers) find it impossible to work from home. And due to financial concerns they need every paycheck, and are less likely to want to face an illness. This makes fighting the virus more difficult because it’s spread from person to person.

What’s more, the virus creates anxiety, stigma and misinformation. Limited movement coupled with poverty prevents many from seeking out routine and essential health services. The elderly for example, suffer from a number of chronic conditions; many others face accessibility issues, and we have a larger percentage of uninsured and underinsured residents.

Studies show that the supply and demand of essential health services declines during widespread disease outbreaks. Many people fear going to the hospital for serious medical issues due to the pandemic. However, it is important to not ignore health conditions that could pose a serious threat. Heart attacks, strokes, appendicitis and other severe health issues still occur — pandemic or not.

It’s important to note that Mee Memorial Healthcare System’s emergency room (ER) is always open, and residents are encouraged to use these services for urgent health concerns.

There are numerous stories nationwide of people staying home despite experiencing symptoms indicative of a heart attack or stroke, for example. Many choose not to go to the hospital due to fear of contracting the virus. This delayed treatment often results in serious health consequences.

South County residents should not let Covid-19 delay needed medical care. While battling the pandemic is indeed a priority, Mee Memorial is also able to safely and effectively care for other medical needs. 

Here are some common symptoms that require immediate medical treatment:

  • Chest pain, tightness or pressure; difficulty breathing; or other heart attack symptoms;
  • Severe headache; sudden loss of vision; facial drooping; sudden weakness or numbness in arm or leg (especially on one side); sudden confusion, dizziness or lack of coordination; or other stroke symptoms;
  • Severe or worsening abdominal pain; or severe abdominal pain along with fever or uncontrollable vomiting;
  • Serious head or spinal injuries; inability to move limbs; or other major trauma;
  • Severe allergic reactions; and
  • Uncontrollable bleeding.

Other serious and sudden medical issues may also require a trip to our ER. If any worrisome symptoms appear, so not hesitate to call 911. We have all been told repeatedly to “stay home” during this pandemic, but one thing you shouldn’t do is stay at home and ignore serious symptoms.

Mee Memorial has taken steps to separate non-Covid-19 patients from those who may have the virus. We have instituted additional procedures in our daily practices, clinics and at the hospital to ensure the safety of patients and their families. The team at our Emergency Department is trained and prepared to provide you with safe emergency care at all times — even during the pandemic. We have put strategies in place for sanitizing public areas, and our team members — with protective equipment on hand — are specially trained to create a safe environment.

Finally, as we turn the page on a most trying year, we should all vow to make lifestyle changes that will benefit our physical and mental health moving forward.

Remember to keep to your regular routines as much as possible and maintain a daily schedule that includes sleeping, healthful meals and activities. Stay socially connected with loved ones as much as possible, using the telephone, video-calls or messaging — or even an old-fashioned, hand-written letter.

Be sure you remain physically active. Reduce long periods of sitting, and carve out at least 30 minutes of exercise each day.

Here are some tips that may prove helpful:

• Stay active: The gyms may be closed, but there are plenty of safe alternatives without going against the preventive best practices recommended by the CDC (such as social distancing and avoiding large crowds). Remember, avoiding crowds does not mean avoiding nature. Going for a brisk walk or jog outside in uncrowded areas is still considered relatively safe.

• Get your rest: Sound sleep is essential to our overall health. According to The National Institutes of Health (NIH): “Immune system activation alters sleep, and sleep in turn affects the innate and adaptive arm of our body’s defense system.” The CDC recommends adults ages 18 to 60 get seven or more hours of sleep per night.

• Diet and nutrition: It’s not always easy, but avoiding “emotional eating” due to stress brought by the pandemic is critical. According to the CDC, whole foods such as dark, leafy greens, oranges and tomatoes are loaded with vitamins, fiber and minerals. Make it a habit to try to eat more whole nutritious foods instead of processed snacks or fast food.

• Mental health: Taking care of your friends and your family can be a stress reliever, but it should be balanced with care for yourself. During times of increased social distancing, people can still maintain social connections and care for their mental health. Phone calls or video chats can help you and your loved ones feel socially connected, less lonely, or isolated. Coping with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.

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