While her daily routine usually consists of “organized chaos,” as of the past two weeks, ER nurse Lauren Horrocks says things have been “very busy.”
These are the startling words from a person who deals with “injuries and lacerations to severe life threatening problems like heart attacks and strokes,” on the daily, as well as “lots of patients with influenza this season”.
Two and a half weeks ago, however the effects of the pandemic have been increasingly visible at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington where Horrocks works.
“Illinois first started to see signs of the pandemic at the end of January, with one case who came back from China. Then in early March there was the first community acquired case in Illinois,” she said. “That means they had no known contact from China, or a person with it. I would say in the past 1.5 weeks, and especially this week, we are seeing the beginnings of this pandemic really affecting us in the hospital, and it’s increasing daily.”
But, that’s the reality for workers like Horrocks: those working in the health industry, in retail, and the government. Unlike every other person being advised to take a break at the moment, these people can’t. Although they are putting themselves in harm’s way, Horrocks says precautions are being taken to protect themselves during the job.
“We need to make sure we are protecting ourselves and others from catching the virus and treating the patients…We are running a drive-up service to keep people out of the hospital for less spread,” she said. “I am taking PPE (personal protective equipment) on and off frequently, [including] goggles, mask, gown and gloves.”
Certain necessary materials are at risk of quickly running out. Healthcare workers are being encouraged to reuse their supplies, using alcohol spray and wipes to sanitize them before seeing the next patient. Some healthcare workers throughout America have started using the hashtag #getmePPE to voice their concerns. But, according to Horrocks, things won’t be slowing down anytime soon.
“We are preparing for the upcoming period of time [with a higher volume] of COVID patients.”
Restrictions have been set in place to try to combat this spike in patients, including the recent Illinois lockdown order through at least April 7. Residents of Illinois are being advised to stay-at-home.
Included in this directive, it is stated that gatherings of 10 or more people are prohibited. In-person socialization with people outside of your household is also prohibited. But, residents can still go to the grocery store, to the gas station, out for a walk, to the pharmacy, to grab takeout, to get dry cleaning, and to liquor stores and recreational cannabis dispensaries. According to Horrocks, these precautions are well worth it.
“Everyone should follow the recommendations for social distancing. I know, it is very hard, but hopefully it will prevent large numbers of people getting COVID-19 at the same time and overwhelming the healthcare system.”
Along with this, Horrocks advises people to “wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face.”
Though Horrocks is working hard during this pandemic, everyone needs to take the necessary precautions mentioned above if they want to see this situation improve. Nurses like Horrocks and many, many others endure tough, nerve-wracking work to protect and help everyone else.