A physician at the local hospital used the platform of the Vandalia City Council meeting to urge residents to use face coverings and socially distance.
Mayor Rick Gottman granted the request of Dr. Glenn Skow, the medical director of the emergency room at SBL Fayette County Hospital, to ask for the public’s help to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
After Gottman read off the local COVID-19 numbers announced earlier in the day by the Fayette County Health Department, Skow said it’s up to local residents to help keep those numbers from growing.
“As the mayor has already indicated we’ve had a significant surge of cases recently I can’t understate that enough,” Skow said.
“To put that in perspective, we’ve had roughly a 350-percent increase in the four weeks alone of cocaine cases here locally,” he said.
“To put that in another way. If you think of the average salary of $56,000, if I gave you a 350-percent increase, you’d be making almost $200,000 a year,” Skow said.
Local residents, he said, play an important role in what happens from this point.
“For me, what’s worse is that we have the means to curb this right now – not tomorrow, when we are forced to close businesses again, schools again or when unemployment subsequently rises or it’s a death toll (that) continues to climb, but right now.
“We do that by wearing masks and keeping our distance from others,” Skow said.
The doctor said that some businesses have worked to enforce COVID-19 guidelines, such as requiring customers to wear face coverings “but, unfortunately, lack enforcement.
“Continuing to do things the way we have and hoping things will change is the definition of insanity,” Skow said.
“This is not the time, in my opinion, for half measures, so let’s try this, and if that doesn’t work, let’s try that. Every delay and every half measure only leads to one more thing – more cases and subsequently more death.
“In my opinion, we owe it to every single life we that we can save, to every family we can spare and every person in this community to do everything possible to save lives,” Skow said.
“For me ,every life is precious. Every life is worth saving.
I’d rather have us look back at this time and say we did everything we could, versus regret that we didn’t do more,” he said.
The doctor said that he and others in the medical field are doing everything they can to fight the pandemic.
“But we can’t do that, and put out this fire alone. We need your help, folks,” he said.
“I hate to say it, but mark my words – the worst thing we can do right now is nothing, because, simply, we cannot have it both ways – we can’t keep the economy open, we can’t keep the kids in school, we can’t save jobs, we can’t save lives without asking people to wear their masks and keep their distance from others – bottom line,” Skow said.
Alderman Ken Hubler asked Skow what type of mask he recommended.
“Excellent question,” Skow said. “Cloth masks are the ones that are favored now.
“But truthfully, just a regular cloth mask or a surgical mask is enough to protect you from sharing those what we call respiratory droplets from one person to another, and that’s really all we’re asking.
“You don’t need to go so far as wearing those hospital, N95 we call them, or some people might use those in construction to protect themselves from the dust and particulate matter.
A simple cloth mask, I’ve even seen people make a bandana into a mask. Those would be more than sufficient,” Skow said.
Alderman Andy Lester asked Skow his thoughts on social distancing, staying 6 feet apart from each other.
“That, in itself, is not enough, but it is extremely helpful,” Skow said.
“Unfortunately it’s (been) shown that people who sneeze and cough can reach well beyond the 6 feet. So that’s where the masks, plus social distancing has been shown to really be truly effective,” he said.
“If we’re just having a regular conversation, where we’re speaking, we’re breathing, maybe we’re even singing in church that unfortunately is what can increase our risk, even within that 6 feet.
“If you want to dramatize it even further, that coughing and sneezing and fortune can go well beyond that 6 feet,” Skow said.
Alderman Dorothy Crawford endorsed Skow’s recommendations.
“I just want to go on the record publicly as 100 percent in favor of anything Dr. Skow would say, any recommendations he would make,” Crawford said.
“I’ve been very open about the fact that in April and May, I lost friends to this.
“In July, I very nearly lost a child, and it upsets me tremendously to see how casually people take it when I know very very well how suddenly your life can go from perfectly normal to gone,” she said.
“And I just wish people would take it more seriously and take more precautions to protect yourself and to protect others, because the mask protects other people from you. And I wish people cared enough about other people to do it,” Crawford said.
Gottman said that the city has available at city hall an 11-page document that covers the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
He said that at the next council meeting, on Tuesday, Sept. 8, Skow, along with someone from the Fayette County Health Department and an infection control nurse, will talk more about the coronavirus.
Also at Monday’s meeting:
• The council approved the transfers of Vandalia Lake lot No. 48 from Gary Plum of Vandalia to Mary Ann Mimms of Hendersonville, Tenn., and lot No. 21 from Tamara and Chad Gelsinnger and Payton Schreier of Effingham to Michael and Tanya Bowles of Vandalia.
• The council approved the retirement of Randy Carroll from the water plant.
• The council observed a moment of silence for Donald Hobler, father of Alderman Mike Hobler.