Concern and Care – Washington County Faces & deals with the virus An Open Letter to Countians from Shawnee Douglas, W.C.H.D.

November 12, 2020

Last week the staff of the Washington County Health Department watched our county’s positive Covid-19 cases climb to over 1000. As I review the large number of positives, I, like all of you, desire the end of this pandemic. I grow weary of the daily worries, struggles and restrictions that these numbers bring with them.  I understand the challenges that quarantine brings and have experienced it in my own family. I see people struggling with illness, recovery and unfortunately, in a few cases, even loss of life.

I have been blessed to work at the Washington County Health Department for the past 33 years. For the last several months I have been serving as administrator.  To say I have never seen anything like this would be an understatement. The health department has always been part of this community, sitting quietly on the side, serving in a role of assistance through WIC, immunizations, healthcare and the security of the people we serve. This role changed seemingly overnight to an agency thrust into the spotlight, expected to enforce public health and called on to do things I had never imagined our small staff would be required to do.

Despite what some think, Washington County Health Department does not make up the rules we are asking you to follow. Our guidance comes straight from the CDC and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. The guidelines, quarantine and isolations are not decisions made locally. These guidelines are in place to slow down the spread of Covid-19 so that the healthcare system does not become overwhelmed.   They are mandated to us. 

Believe me, I understand the desire to return to normal. People have a desire to be with family and friends.   Unfortunately, returning to normalcy too quickly often leads to detrimental outcomes for the very people they long to be with. This is why I am asking you to do the basic things that you have been hearing about.   Social distance and when you cannot be socially distanced, wear a mask for the safety of others and for yourself.  Wash your hands often.  Stay home if you are sick.  Doing these things will slow the spread of Covid-19 in Washington County.

2020 has definitely had its challenges but it has also brought about an awareness of the good things around us. As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I am reminded of so many things I am personally thankful for. First and foremost, I am thankful for the Washington County Health Department Staff, some of who are working late nights and Saturdays and Sundays. Their families are sacrificing time away from their loved ones as they put in hours and hours above the regular work week. Their dedication to this job and their concern for Washington County amazes me.

The County Commission, who has helped guide us and support us through kind deeds and Cares Act Funding has been a huge blessing. Justin Duncan and the Washington County Ambulance District have gone over and above to assist us with clinics, testing and testing sites and countless other activities.   They are selfless.

The many healthcare providers, including Washington County Memorial Hospital and its clinics, Great Mines Health Center, Dr. Terpstra and Doctor Tindall’s Office and the nurses and doctors who put themselves out there every day continue to help people.  We are indebted to the Ministerial Alliance for its prayers and acts of kindness towards our staff and community.

The school districts of Potosi, Kingston, Valley, Richwoods and St. Joachim have gone over and above to try to keep students and staff safe. Thank you so much to all those administrators, teachers, counselors, secretaries, support staff, cooks and bus drivers. I see you facing challenges like never before. I realize you not only have classroom teaching, but on-line teaching while keeping up with students absent from sickness and quarantine, helping each of those students to continue to learn during these difficult times.  All the while, you are risking your own safety as you seek to guard the safety of your students.

Business owners, grocery store employees, restaurants and fast-food workers, I appreciate you! To the police, prison guards, EMS and firefighters, I appreciate you.  Your jobs never slow down, but have been greatly complicated by Covid-19 and yet you all continue to put yourselves out there every day.

I am thankful for the nursing home workers and pray for them and their patients.  I am sure we have no idea of the depth of your struggles. I am thankful to the many agencies, churches and individuals who have brought the health department food, snacks, gifts or even just offered kind words of support through social media.  It is such an encouragement to us.  

All of us are so ready for life to go back to normal.  As the number of positives grow, I ask that you extend patience and grace to us as we continue to do the job required of us.  We are working as quickly as we can to contact all positives and their contacts.  It is not an easy job.  Sometimes it is out of our control as we receive late reporting from labs or test results. 

I understand that everyone does not agree with all we ask of you.  Differences of opinion and the frustrations of quarantine may cause you to feel anger and anxiety.  Through this season of Thanksgiving and Christmas, I am asking you to extend grace to those essential workers who are trying their best to serve our County.  Be sympathetic to those who must ask something of you as a result of this pandemic.  Look for the good in people.  Love, forgive and find ways to lift each other up as we work together to get through his trying period in the history of our County and our Nation.  

Washington County is my home and also your home. We really are all in this together.

/s/Shawnee Douglas
W.C.H.D. Administrator