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'It's hard for all of us': Local healthcare workers adapt amidst COVID-19 concerns
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'It's hard for all of us': Local healthcare workers adapt amidst COVID-19 concerns

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As the fight against COVID-19 wages on in the Chippewa Valley, the medical personnel on the front lines are working even harder and smarter than they did before to keep the virus at bay and patients safe.

Now that Wisconsin is under a shelter-at-home order from Gov. Evers limiting all businesses to only those deemed “essential,” the fight against the spread of coronavirus in Chippewa County is as important as ever.

Many area health-care workers are having to work longer hours under more strenuous conditions to keep both themselves and their patients safe.

Local nurse Jennifer Olson said a large portion of her day is now spent fielding calls from panicked area residents confused about whether they’re showing symptoms and whether to come in and receive care or not.

“We’re having to do a lot more telephone triage when people call in and have questions about whether or not they should come in and be seen,” Olson said. “Things have slowed down lately, but we’re still reinforcing safe hygiene practices in the clinic and outside of it. And many of the hospitals have enough supplies right now, but the entire medical community is starting to talk to each other and get things ordered before it becomes a worse problem.”

Abbie Greenwell, local certified nursing assistant, said her job has changed dramatically during the past few weeks, as procedures both in and out of her long-term care facility have adapted to meet the evolving needs of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My job has changed a lot the past few weeks,” Greenwell said. “I spend a lot of time face-to-face with the residents because I answer their call lights, grabbing their room trays and providing direct care. It’s changed a lot for us because they’ve now quarantined the residents to their rooms, which is very hard for them. They’re taking a hit and it makes it harder for us to care for them because we see how disappointed they are with the situation.”

Area hospitals continue to limit the amount of contact patients may have with guests as well to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Most area health-care facilities have banned guests in favor of quarantining patients to their rooms.

While this is difficult for both patients and workers, Greenwell said she and her staff are doing their best to keep morale high every day to help get through this unprecedented time.

“It’s hard for all of us,” Greenwell said. “When our residents are bummed out, we’re bummed out. When they are cooped up in their rooms they are on their call lights more because they get bored and need social interaction. We have the same amount of staff as we normally do, so it starts to feel like a higher workload.”

While no end is in sight for the regulations and restrictions placed upon Chippewa County due to COVID-19, Olson said she and her co-workers are doing everything they can to be safe and ensure the health of the patients who would through their doors.

“Everyone is rallying together to see how they can help,” Olson said. “Potentially being around the virus and other diseases is always a stressful thing, but we just have to be mindful of it and do things to protect yourself as you do your day-to-day work. We’re just trying to do our part during this unprecedented time.”

COVID-19 causes diseases in mammals and birds.

Symptoms of the coronavirus in humans include respiratory tract infections, similar to many cases of the common cold.

The recent outbreak began in China and through international travel has spread around the world causing some panic, the cancellation of many large gatherings, and the hoarding of hygiene products such as hand sanitizer and toilet paper from store shelves in the fear of quarantine scenarios.

While there is still much uncertainty surrounding the virus and how it will impact people’s lives going forward, on an individual basis all people can do is stay clean, use common sense and be patient while a cure is researched and a sense of normalcy is restored to the area.

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