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Pandemic Theater: on the Front Lines at an Essential National Retail Chain and the Local Hospital
© 06.02.20 By D. Eric Williams

I've had the unique opportunity to slog out the war against the COVID-19 thus far in a couple of recognized hotspots: a national retail chain and a local hospital. I should probably tell you how this came about.

I have been engaged in ministry for over 30 years as a bi-vocational pastor. The churches I've served have been small and my family is large and over the years I've held a variety of "second jobs." Places I've worked include the Idaho Department of Correction, lumber mills, private security, building maintenance, telemarketing and so on. For the past 4 and a half years I've had the privilege to serve as a full-time chaplain at one of the local hospitals. This is where I found myself when the coronavirus pandemic really took off in March. Along with thousands of other hospitals across the country the institution I work for curtailed elective surgeries and other "nonessential" medical care. As a result, I was soon "flexed" from full-time to halftime hours.

Many of the hospital staff elected to work one week on and one week off in a rotating schedule, enabling them to collect unemployment with a $600 per week COVID-19 enhancement on the weeks they were off. That's not my style. Instead, I cast about for an additional job and was pleased to find a national retail chain was hiring. Within a short time after submitting an application I became a proud employee of the national retail chain.

There are two reasons the national retail chain is hiring. In the first place, it's an "essential business" and has been allowed to stay open in every nook and cranny of the United States of America throughout the pandemic. So, if you want groceries, running shoes, paint, art supplies, dog food, furniture, toys, electronics and other essential items, the national retail chain has got you covered.

The second reason for the national retail chain hiring spree is that thousands of national retail chain employees quit because they were afraid they would catch the coronavirus and die. In fact, the national retail chain employees didn't actually have to quit to flee the coronavirus plague. The national retail chain allowed their workers to take a COVID-19 leave of absence if they wanted to. Moreover, during this "pandemic" employees are allowed to skip out on work without any negative consequence. Normally, an employee is allowed only five "occurrences" in any rolling six month period. Showing up late for work, failure to come to work and so on are occurrences. These days, if you don't feel like showing up for work at the national retail chain you don't have to. In any case, there are gaps in the national retail chain workforce and I was happy to fill one.

At The Hospital
In addition to curtailing nonessential medical care, the hospital locked-down as well. Entrance and egress was limited to one location where each employee was screened on a daily basis. Initially employees were barred from wearing masks and then, some weeks later, without explanation, were required to wear masks. To begin with, no visitors at all were allowed and as the pandemic progressed, this was loosened a bit so that each patient could have one visitor at a time. All visitors are also screened and required to wear a mask. The mask can be literally anything that covers the lower portion of your face. In other words, the mask does not have to be effective; it is merely a prop in the Pandemic Theater

One might hope that an institution dedicated to the art of medicine would possess more curiosity and imagination than your typical omniscient state governor. But, alas, that does not seem to be the case. For instance, sometime in mid-March I was involved in a conversation with a couple doctors about possible treatments for the COVID-19. One of the doctors was telling us about a recent encounter with an elderly patient and his son. The doctor was laughing about the son's insistence (a nurse at another local hospital) that the hydroxychloroquine, azithromyicin, zinc protocol be made available to his father. Indeed, he had brought a copy of doctor Zelenko's open letter detailing dosages and schedules. The doctor from the hospital where I am employed thought the younger man's request was a real hoot. He insisted there was no science to back up the request. At that point I interrupted and told the doctor he may have overlooked a couple things. In the first place, studies were conducted 15 years ago showing the efficacy of chloroquine in the treatment of coronaviruses. Moreover, quinine (along with the synthetic forms chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine) are zinc ionophores. "Meaning, they allow zinc to pass through cell membranes" he said. "Exactly" I replied. I could almost see the light of understanding dawn on his face. You see, zinc is a powerful antiviral and the reason doctor Zelenko found great success prescribing hydroxychloroquine and zinc (along with azithromyicin) is because when the regimen is began early in the course of the disease, the hydroxychloroquine allows the zinc to wipe out most of the virus so the body's natural immune system can clean up the rest. It's science. There are peer-reviewed studies supporting the treatment. Yet, even then when I asked him if he would prescribe hydroxychloroquine and zinc for me if I were sick with the COVID-19 he said absolutely not. The other Doctor involved in the conversation heartily concurred. For several days after that, whenever I encountered one of these doctors I would greet him as "Doctor science denier." I suppose you might call this an inside joke; this particular doctor had claimed I was a "science denier" because of an earlier conversation we had about creation and evolution.

To be continued.

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