Mitigating COVID: ‘It’s important to stress hygiene right now’

While rural communities seemed to divert COVID last spring, few areas in Illinois are immune from the effects and strain of the virus today.

As of Nov. 18, there were 1,135 out of 3,764 Intensive Care Unit beds available in Illinois and 4,036 ventilators available out of 5,738.

And just ahead of the holidays, Illinois took a step back and started “Tier 3” resurgence mitigations in an attempt to suppress the virus and prevent hospitals from becoming overrun.

“It’s important to stress hygiene right now,” Les Mathers, M.D., Chief Clinical Officer, Stratum Med Inc. and Mason County livestock and grain farmer told FarmWeek. “The kinds of things that all of our moms would have taught us, like washing our hands. We don’t know when we’re rubbing against things whether that surface has got something that’s still living on it. And these are things that, irrespective of COVID-19, are part of our lives day in and day out. But because of this one particular pathogen seeming to cause so many more problems than most things, it’s certainly important to just make sure that you’re doing that extra step of hygiene, spacing and blocking things (with a face mask).”

While following recommended guidelines is crucial to slowing the spread, much is still unknown about the virus, and may not be known for some time.

“On the news, you tend to get this sense of yes, no, right, wrong or people are on one side of something,” said Mathers. “We don’t really know a lot of the answers for sure about how to best avoid. We don’t know how good all the tests are. And now they’re coming out with two vaccines and several more to come out that they’re saying are 90%-plus effective. And again, that’s early stages of things. We’ll know a lot more about this in a few years.”

Overall, COVID has caused the need for people to alter routine behaviors and habits, something that may come easier to some than others.

“Most people that grew up farming are not used to socially distancing,” noted Mathers. “They’re used to seeing people and connecting, shaking hands, patting on the back and giving hugs. I think for so many people it’s just been a real struggle of changing behaviors to try to cut down on the infectious aspects and spread potential of all this.”