December 2021 President’s Message

December 2021 President’s Message

COVID ups and downs dominate 2021

by Stephen J. Grindel, DO —

After an extremely difficult 2020, the New Year began with hope: Two COVID-19 vaccines were available.

MSSC worked with the Sedgwick County Health Department to organize a mass vaccination clinic. Thousands of health care workers throughout the county were vaccinated at the clinic or through the hospitals.

Many physicians expressed joy and relief in getting the vaccine. It appeared our community might soon put the worst of COVID-19 behind it.

In the first few months, demand for the vaccine outstripped the supply. But by spring, demand slowed, and the focus soon shifted to outreach. MSSC produced several public service commercials encouraging people to get vaccinated, and physicians discussed the vaccine with their patients.

Vaccine misinformation also flourished. To help combat this, MSSC arranged for physicians to speak to various groups and answer vaccine questions.

By late spring, the rate of community spread dropped so low that the CDC lifted its mask recommendation for vaccinated individuals. It seemed as if the country was emerging from the pandemic and life would start returning to normal.

But by early July the percentage of positive tests began climbing again, as the delta variant took hold. Soon the number of COVID cases surged, placing Ascension Via Christi and Wesley Medical Center at critical status.

The politics and emotions of the pandemic also surged, as protests against masking policies intensified. Federal vaccine mandates led to lawsuits and a special legislative session.

The strain of taking care of so many patients for so many months also took a toll on health care workers. Nurses remained in short supply. Physicians who were earlier hailed as heroes now faced mistrust.

MSSC tried to encourage health care workers and build up public support. It provided meals and thank-you notes to hospital COVID units. It dedicated a new Keeper statue at the MSSC offices to commemorate the work and sacrifices of the medical community in combating COVID-19.

The outlook began improving in the fall. Booster shots were approved, as were vaccines for children 5 and older.

The local COVID numbers also started declining. However, hospital status was not lowered to “cautious” until November and was back to “critical” in December. The CDC continued to classify the rate of community spread as “high.”

What will 2022 bring? Will the omicron or another variant become dominant? Will COVID-19 burn itself out? Will it become endemic? What 2021 showed is how difficult it is to accurately predict the future of COVID-19.

I wish to thank the members of the Medical Society for their support over the past year. It has been a difficult year for all physicians and medical personnel. I believe times of crisis, such as a global pandemic, are when the Medical Society shines the brightest.

Best wishes for a happy and blessed holiday season.