READ FOR YOURSELF: Full text of remarks by OHSU doctor on Covid care

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My name is David Zonies, and I’m the associate chief medical officer and medical director for adult critical care at OHSU. I’m also a trauma surgeon and a colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, have been on the front lines of war in Afghanistan caring for American patriots who put themselves in harms way only when necessary, took care of each other, and expected a medical system to be ready should they get sick or injured.

I am proud of my 21 years of continued service — and the last thing I expected was to now be on another front line of war, against a virus that is a VERY REAL threat to our fellow Oregonians. No one has unlimited resources and our health systems are being overrun by a virus that is as deadly as it is preventable.

That’s why I’m here today – to share what we’re already seeing in our intensive care units. And to urge people to remain vigilant, think about the health of your friends and family, and please stay home for the holidays this year.

There is absolutely no doubt that this is hard, we continue to ask for your sacrifice so that you can assure we are able to care for those who need our help.

We’re asking people to make smart choices today, to hunker down this year, so that many hundreds or thousands of Oregon families can experience the joy of gathering with your friends and families for future holidays.

We are already seeing hospitalizations rise substantially at OHSU over the past three weeks. Even though we’ve learned a lot about treating COVID, I can tell you that no one wants to end up in an intensive care unit.

Despite the compassion and high-quality care our doctors and nurses provide, people are isolated, often on ventilators, and away from their family and friends. Among those who survive, it can take months to recover. And sadly for those who are dying, they do so in relative isolation away from those who care about them the most.

Even today, I meet people in our ICU who didn’t think COVID was either real or was as bad as we say it can be. And every time, without failure, they’re critically ill and remorseful. Their families say, “I wish I had taken this seriously”. Well, take it seriously because the misinformation and misunderstanding leads to spread, sickness and unnecessary anguish.

Thanksgiving is the perfect storm of risk factors that end up in our ICUs time and time again:

•Lots of people.

•Various age groups, including vulnerable older people.

•Indoors, with minimal ventilation thanks to our cool and wet climate.

•Crowded close together.

•No masks, since we’re eating and drinking. This is exactly the scenario that the virus thrives on.

We know the virus is circulating widely in Oregon. In any large group with multiple households, simple arithmetic tells us that someone is probably carrying the virus.

As health care workers, we all took a vow to step up and provide care for all who need it. For these past several months, our nurses and doctors have worked night and day to keep people alive. This has been physically and emotionally exhausting. In many cases, health care workers have been the only human contact for people struggling to survive without the benefit of face-to-face contact with their loved ones. This is truly heartbreaking.

Even in the midst of this pandemic, our frontline staff will be there for you.

Now we’re asking for you to hold out a little longer with a vaccine on the way: Mask up, maintain a safe distance, practice hand hygiene … and, please, stay home.