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November 26, 2021

Guest Column | Keeping Our Focus on Health, Safety

If you live in South Monterey County, you are among more than 60 million rural Americans. American Community Survey statistics show that Maine and Vermont have the highest proportions of population living in rural areas (about 61%) while California has the lowest (4.9%). 

If you’ve ever flown in an airplane across the Midwest and West, you surely noticed the vast, wide open spaces, yet the majority of the nation’s rural population (64.4%) actually lives east of the Mississippi River.

We are unique living here in our close knit, rural community. We enjoy our open spaces, clean air, a close proximity to nature and a slower pace of life. We are large enough to enjoy quality medical care provided by Mee Memorial Healthcare System, yet small enough to truly care about each individual. In short: We all matter, and it matters that we look out for each other.

At MMHS, we believe in taking a proactive approach to patient care. Keeping you healthy and safe is always in our best interest!

It’s a critical time of year when it comes to both health and safety in our community. We’ve entered the fall season, the days are shorter, kids are back in school and the winter holidays are fast approaching. It’s time to be vigilant — while still enjoying all that makes rural living rewarding.

Here is some food for thought for the rest of 2021:

Flu season approaches

When we hear the word “vaccine” we naturally think about Covid-19. But there is another respiratory virus that still demands our full attention. Influenza (or the flu) is a viral infection that can be deadly, especially in high-risk groups.

The good news is that an annual vaccine can help prevent the flu and limit its complications. 

Getting a flu shot is particularly important now because we want to do everything we can to minimize having two respiratory outbreaks circulating simultaneously. A serious outbreak could quickly overwhelm communities, especially smaller ones such as ours.

Arrange your flu shot today. It is both safe and effective, and it’s available now at our King City or Greenfield clinics. Influenza vaccinations are available by patient appointment only. The dates set for each clinic are as follows: Fridays from 2 to 5 p.m. (Nov. 5 and 19; Dec. 3 and 17); Sundays from 8 to 11 a.m. (Nov. 7 and 21; Dec. 5 and 19). 

Business owners and community groups may contact us for referrals or small-group clinics. Call the King City clinic at 831-385-7100 or Greenfield at 831-674-0112.

Vaccines and booster shots

This is a topic that has been heavily politicized, and that’s truly unfortunate. Throughout the decades, medical science has developed vaccines because it is always better to prevent a disease than to treat it after it occurs. Vaccines stimulate our immune system to produce antibodies, exactly like it would if you were exposed to the disease. 

While vaccines contain the same particles that are in a specific disease, they have been either killed or weakened to the point that they WILL NOT make us sick.

Vaccines are particularly important for children because they are safer than their initial exposure to a disease. Some diseases that once injured or killed thousands of children — such as polio, tetanus, and diphtheria — have been eliminated completely, and others are close to extinction. This is due to safe and effective vaccines. Talk to your family doctor today about immunizing your child today!

When it comes to boosters, they represent an important element in fully immunizing someone. While the full rollout schedule for Covid-19 vaccine booster shots is still under consideration by the FDA, it will eventually become an important part of our community’s fight against the virus.

But boosters are important in the battle against many other diseases because over time our protection wears. And some viruses change, or mutate, over time, making a vaccine less effective.

Booster shots are available for babies, teens or adults, to ward off everything from tetanus to pneumonia. You may also need to re-up some vaccinations depending on your lifestyle, travel, or job (for example, if you’re a healthcare worker). Ask your doctor about boosters for your children or yourself. They are an important tool in preventative medicine.

Halloween safety

For our children, this is a much-anticipated day of fun and frolic. With Covid-19 still active in our community, it is important to stay safe while still having a spook-tacular Halloween.

Cloth face masks make for excellent costumes while reducing the risk for Covid-19 transmission (combined with lots of hand-washing, social distancing, etc.). So it’s probably a good idea to incorporate a Halloween face mask into the final look. Pumpkin masks, skeleton masks, cat masks — they all work well to complement a theme. And, you’re covered if it gets crowded out there.

But here’s another idea close to my heart. If you have a surgical mask, pair it with a white or red dress, scrubs, a white lab coat, or anything else that might resemble the clothing of a healthcare worker! A real-life superhero. Mee Memorial Healthcare System would be thrilled and honored to see youthful nurses and doctors roaming the streets on Oct. 31!

We also remind all parents to make safety a priority. Here are some Halloween safety tips to consider:

  • Decorate costumes and bags with reflective tape or stickers and, if possible, choose light colors;
  • Choose face paint and makeup whenever possible instead of full masks, which can obstruct a child’s vision;
  • Have kids carry glow sticks or flashlights to help them see and be seen by drivers;
  • When selecting a costume, make sure it is the right size to prevent trips and falls;
  • Wear bright colors and add reflective strips so drivers can see children; and
  • Remain in trusted neighborhoods, and send older children out with a phone (for emergencies only).

Let’s pull together on all these fronts and finish 2021 with health, safety and community in mind at all times.

Rena Salamacha
CEO, Mee Memorial Healthcare System

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