Civil unrest and the coronavirus

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DR. CHRIS COLBERT

Chicago ER doctor offers insight into what you can do to remain vigilant

The fight against the coronavirus entered Phase 3 this week in Chicago, but civil unrest threatened to push that date back indefinitely. Chicago’s Mayor Lori Lightfoot is now urging those who participated in protests throughout the city to quarantine for 14 days so we do not see another surge.

“It is important to remember; we are still in the middle of a pandemic. The coronavirus has not gone away. We must stay the course and continue to follow the guidelines set out by the CDC for fear of another surge,” says Dr. Chris Colbert, Assistant Program Director of the emergency medicine residency program at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

But as millions across the country continue to gather in mass protest in the death of George Floyd, how do we stay safe while practicing our civil liberties? “First and foremost, you must wear a mask. Studies have shown that masks eliminate the rate of transmission significantly. Try to maintain a safe social distance, this can be difficult among large crowds but remaining aware of your immediate surroundings can help. Finally, wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer whenever possible,” urges Dr. Colbert.

Despite precautionary measures, healthcare workers who have been on the front lines battling COVID-19 for months still worry of a second wave and its’ continued toll on their mental health.

“This has been going on for months, we as mental healthcare workers are exhausted both physically and emotionally. It is like watching a hamster running on the wheel, feeling like you are going full throttle but never finishing the race. We are in a race, in every aspect of our lives, never have we seen the amount of disparity that exists right now all at once,” says Dr. Colbert.

Mental health is ravaging our nation across the board, the uptick in alcohol sales is up nearly 30-percent from this time last year according to the marketing research firm, Nielsen. That rise continues to spill into emergency rooms across the country.

“We continue to see the secondary effects of the pandemic play out in the ER, whether that be isolated incidences of binge drug and/or alcohol use. First, it was just the pandemic, but now we have unemployment, economic decline, lack of necessities including food, rioting and civil unrest. As doctors, we must meet our patients where they are. Right now, that reality is difficult to grasp for all of us, not just as medical professionals but as humans in general. But despite feelings of defeat, we must focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. We will get through this,” reminds Dr. Colbert.

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