Lab Matters Spring 2022 | Page 4


Coping with COVID-19 , Inside and Outside the Laboratory

Denise Toney , PhD President , APHL
Staff burnout has remained a big issue and one that continues to challenge our public health systems . And we are only beginning to find out how deep the problem goes .”
Lab Matters : So let ’ s talk about Omicron . How are you and your team doing , Denise ?
Denise Toney : Well ... very busy and very tired , as I am sure is the case for so many of our members . With the emergence of Omicron over the past couple of months , we have seen a significant increase in the number of samples submitted for testing and to make things more challenging , we are also seeing an increase in our folks and their family members contracting COVID-19 . Unfortunately , I can speak first-hand about this in that I contracted COVID-19 in mid-January . Believe me , reading about the virus and working with the virus on a daily basis is much different than having the virus . Trying to balance my staff needs and my own challenges of keeping my family safe has not been easy . Also , maneuvering through the healthcare system with a COVID-19 infection has been eye-opening . There are so many new provisions and prerequisites for medical care that just weren ’ t there before the pandemic .
Scott Becker : I know that things have radically changed for everyone as far as healthcare . From quarantining and testing before surgeries to wait times for urgent care , our health systems were not constructed for this kind of prolonged stress . For the East Coast , Omicron hit early and hit hard . On Monday , January 3 , 2022 , over 1 million new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the US . And even though this number also encompassed holiday backlogs , that led to a seven-day average of almost 800,000 daily new cases . Included in that number are the many members of the medical and public health communities who have gotten sick themselves , have had to quarantine , and have not been able to provide care … they have needed to be cared for themselves .
Denise : I know , I was truly lucky to have been able to get the care that I needed . My doctor was amazing and allowed me to recuperate at home , calling in any medications that I needed to my pharmacy . There are so many more people out there who don ’ t have the access to care that they need to get through this disease . Believe it or not , as sick as I was , I ended up being “ too healthy ” to qualify for any of the current infusion therapies !
Scott : I think that ’ s a good problem to have , right ?
Denise : – Absolutely !
Scott : Did you end up getting your sample sequenced ?
Denise : Yes , I did and it was Omicron . I still don ’ t quite know how I got it , since I ’ ve only been around my family and a few close friends and I don ’ t go into stores or out very much . I will say that my COVIDWise app did notify people that I wouldn ’ t have thought would have been considered exposures . I tried to remember who I had been in close contact with , but could only really remember about five people . The app covered people that I hadn ’ t really thought of as a close contact and being at risk of being exposed .
LM : This new surge has been incredibly hard , both professionally and personally , for many of our members . How can we continue to support them ?
Denise : We really need to keep in mind what Scott said before : our systems were not constructed for a prolonged surge — and neither were our laboratorians and administrators . Staff burnout has remained a big issue and one that continues to challenge our public health systems . And we are only beginning to
2 LAB MATTERS Spring 2022
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