The spike in COVID-19 cases is happening nationwide and Rexburg is no different, with more cases now than at any other time during the pandemic.
Dr. Jack Clark has been at Madison Memorial Hospital throughout the pandemic. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Clark could see that this virus was unique.
“This was very different from other diseases that I’ve treated throughout my medical career,” Clark said. “I’ve been practicing for over 20 years. When someone gets severe COVID they have changes on their cat scan that I’ve never seen before in terms of the way that it damages the lungs.”
In response to the spread of the virus, the hospital isolated COVID patients from other patients. At the beginning of the pandemic, non-urgent surgeries were postponed. Although these procedures have since returned, during the fall of last year some surgery patients were kept in the day surgery area, because the hospital has so many COVID patients.
The hospital has also felt the strain on staff. They are in need of respiratory therapists, nurses and even kitchen staff. The hospital recently hired a new hospitalist to keep up with demand.
Clark says the best way for residents to protect themselves and others is to be vaccinated.
“We’re seeing about 95% of the people that get sick enough that they have to be in the hospital are those who have not been vaccinated,” Clark said.
He has seen that the few who are vaccinated and do come to the hospital tend to have less severe disease, recover faster and leave the hospital faster.
Clark also says that wearing a mask protects others. He acknowledges they can be annoying; after all Clark has been wearing a mask a lot for the past two years. But he says studies show that masks can prevent the spread of the virus through coughs.
Looking to the future, Clark hopes that as the virus mutates it becomes less harmful.
“As viruses shift there is a chance it’s either going to get worse or not as bad,” Clark said.
When asked what he would say to members of the community, Clark’s message is simple.
“Just be kind,” Clark said. “So many people are on edge right now and we don’t need that. It’s hard enough on everyone… We’re all in this together.”