Today I want to take you on a dangerous journey. We are going to follow in the COVID footsteps of:
- A School Principal
- A Long-Term Care Director
- A Restaurant Owner
- A Church Pastor
1. A School Principal
These footsteps are huge and belong to a person oftentimes seen wandering around without a Playbook on how to keep school open and support their students and staff during the ongoing COVID pandemic.
They have never had to deal with the unprecedented measures necessary to combat any outbreak with the sheer length and mayhem that this virus continues to inflict on their population. Their endless, daily battles are now permanently compounded by COVID. They are assailed daily, even within their own ranks, with severe differences of opinion as to what to do – ie, Masks/No Masks; Pre-class COVID testing / depend on parents testing; All teachers vaccinated / teachers voicing right to not be vaccinated; Danger of keeping school open / Danger of students being left behind by remote learning; it goes on.
The soles of these shoes are wearing thin. Yes, they have done everything suggested by the CDC (even though it is often confusing or contradictory advice) including masks, testing, constant disinfecting, quarantining, and personal distancing. They have been patient beyond human endurance but if they ever had a playbook it’s long since been shredded as useless in the face of the invading COVID virus and its endless legions of variants. Many fell victim to bogus air purification products that sprouted like weeds to take advantage of a desperate situation. The idea that purified air would help was among CDC recommendations but was not backed by any standards or guidelines to follow to ensure solutions purchased were scientifically tested and vetted. Their footsteps loop in a continuous circle – even though a solution is available.
2. A Long-Term Care Director
The next set of footprints we follow have left scuffed, weary, dragging marks behind.
They belong to the director of a long-term care facility for the elderly. His community was among the first victims of COVID. It quickly ravaged his residents and staff to the point that many of his colleagues had to shut down and turn people away – the morgues quickly overcrowding. For a horrendous 18 months, COVID rampaged, mercilessly thinning the ranks of the elderly and health compromised with astonishingly brutal efficiency. He was helpless to prevent the people in his care, their families, and those who worked with them from suffering indescribable loss. They too followed what little advice was available, wearing masks, disinfecting, social distancing, allowing no visitations by loved ones.
The vaccine arrived and their community was among the first recipients. Most grasped at what they hoped would save their lives, others refused it, including staff who believed that the vaccine would do them more harm than good. Many contracted COVID, many died. (31% of all COVID-19 deaths in the US as of June 2021 were among staff and residents of LTC facilities). People were tested daily before being allowed to enter, cases diminished, and it seemed that things might get back to normal, then the variants arrived. This director had also searched for specific guidelines on air quality control from the CDC in vain. Even before COVID, the director’s community suffered from poor air quality that fostered COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), heart disease, cancer, and respiratory diseases like emphysema and asthma. It was clear that the quality of the air had to be addressed. Residents and staff are his responsibility. Their health and well-being depend on his ability to research every scientifically tested and verified air filtration system and purchase one that alleviates contamination from multiple sources. His footsteps lead to his computer and dead-ended, even though a solution is available.
3. A Restaurant Owner
This set of footprints led into their restaurant but did not emerge until 15 hours later.
They belong to the owner of a restaurant, who while doing well enough before COVID, had always encountered stiff competition and difficulty hiring and retaining help. Add to these challenges the fact that millions in revenue was lost during the COVID shutdown and it is no wonder so many restaurants gave up and closed their doors forever, a vaccine arriving too late to help.
Most restaurants are small businesses that support the community and offer jobs to those willing to work hard to give us a place to celebrate, mingle or take a break from mundane routines. It is the owner’s responsibility to ensure his guests and staff can gather in an atmosphere of safety. The few who could open followed strict disinfecting, social distancing, masks when possible, and COVID tracing procedures, the latter of which did not instill much confidence from patrons contemplating a visit. They saw open-air seating as a remedy where people could gather together without fear, but unfortunately, that was not always practical and only a seasonal solution at best.
When the first wave of the pandemic abated and vaccines were available, state governments started lifting bans on inside gatherings and restaurants saw business improve but with one big drawback. Many people had left the industry seeking more secure jobs and the restaurant workforce was decimated. While this also had started rebounding the variants struck and what little help was available was either out sick or worried about working indoors where, in most places, masks were not required anymore.
Owners are now faced with the reality of COVID and its variants, discouraging employment as well as patronage in their establishments. They are between a rock and a hard place of trying to keep their customers and staff safe while dealing with the issue that masks cannot (and in some cases, will not) be worn all the time.
As it was determined at the beginning of the pandemic, contaminated particles are easily circulated through the air from a person talking, laughing, coughing, or sneezing. These microscopic particles could stay suspended in the air for hours while HVAC airflow scatters them throughout the room. It was obvious this needed to be controlled through robust air purification that would pull up the contaminated air from the breathing zone and away from occupants. It was also paramount that this would occur 24/7 with clean air being returned to the room constantly. Some owners were aware that tested, robust air filtration existed that could give their customers and staff some peace of mind (and much healthier air) many other owners turned away from the idea – even though a solution is available.
4. A Church Pastor
This set of footprints was always surrounded by many others seeking comfort in a desperate attempt to understand the unknown.
COVID pays no regard to the beliefs or ages of its victims. Many lost loved ones to the pandemic but many more were also in danger from the unseen tragedy of isolation and loneliness visited upon every human being who initially remained secluded in their homes. Even when places of worship reopened, parishioners knew life would not be the same, their means of gathering would forever carry the question “is it safe”? At a time when people needed comforting and a shared sense of community most, the act of coming together was, and still is, a cause for great anxiety. While some pastors reached out through video services, they understood it was not a permanent fix and would not take the place of people worshipping together in person. In addition, their younger parishioners were online all week with classes already and were missing the personal interaction needed for the development of well-rounded individuals that included a positive spiritual experience.
The pastors also followed all CDC guidelines of disinfecting, social distancing, non-contact, and mask-wearing, reopening when allowed. Unfortunately, getting sick from COVID has become commonplace in our daily experiences, even as serious new variants arrive. It is natural to want to forget the science behind this ugly pandemic that threatens our existence. Understandably, people need their faith to be renewed in person amongst a fellowship of like-minded humans. The question then becomes, is there a more responsible way to gather where we will not put others at risk by sharing the same air that may or may not hold unseen sickness?
There are no governing standards on what constitutes verifiable air cleaning products. It is the responsibility of church leaders to seek and implement tested, proven methods of purifying indoor air for the benefit of their community if they wish to offer a safe environment. Consider that, even before the pandemic, poor indoor air quality was recognized as causing a myriad of ailments among the population.
This Pastor’s footsteps led to a meeting with the church governing team. They reviewed tested, verifiable results of an air filtration system that would help eliminate viruses and contaminants from indoor air. After consulting with an air safety specialist, they discovered there is one solution that met their challenges – and they installed it.
Epilogue: As the pandemic enters its third year with clear signs of morphing into severe variations not yet known, being prepared remains key. Keeping informed and up-to-date with the latest in CDC recommendations and data is a good start, but unless you start addressing the filtration of your air to mitigate airborne pathogens and improve IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) with a scientifically proven air filtration system, your preparations will be incomplete against COVID in all its forms.