Tales from the coronavirus home front

Tie a yellow ribbon on a San Diego telephone pole passing for an oak tree this week honoring local health workers during the coronavirus crisis./YouTube

Tie a yellow ribbon

Tie a yellow ribbon round the ole oak tree first appeared in a 1973 hit song by Tony Orlando & Dawn. It was a reference to an unnamed prisoner, according to Dr. Jack Santino, a folklorist.

Yellow ribbons became a national obsession during the 1979 Iranian Hostage Crisis as trees across the nation were decked out in them to show solidarity with the 52 Americans held captive for 444 days from Nov. 4, 1979 at the US Embassy at Tehran.

Last time Americans put a yellow ribbon out in their front yard was in support of the troops during the Gulf War. Now, a Chula Vista women said it’s time to do it again for our first responders and health care workers, according to Shawn Styles of KFMB 8 San Diego.

“What I’m doing now is giving support to the health care workers and first responders,” said Chris Morrow
Remembering how people hung those yellow ribbons around Tony Orlando’s oak tree during the Gulf War to show solidarity with the troops. Morrow went back to the future around her Chula Vista neighborhood.

Morrow said the yellow ribbons were reassuring. “This is a war,” she said to Styles. “This is a silent enemy. That’s what they are doing. The health care works and first responders, they’re fighting for us.”

The yellow ribbon gang now is going big after starting small at Morrow’s Chula Vista home.

“What I did was put it in my yard, on my tree and around the neighborhood,” Morrow said, “putting them around the trees in Chula Vista, and talking with my neighbors.”

Yellow ribbons, according to Styles, have sprung up at  National City at 32nd Pier, Coronado, Rancho Santa Fe, Lake Murray, downtown San Diego, and Imperial Beach.

Morrow wants to take the yellow ribbons nationally to show health workers everybody is appreciates their hard work during hard times. “If I can do a simple token of letting them see a ribbon,” Morrow said, “maybe it will just make them feel a little better. Maybe that will help,” adding, “All you have to do is tie one on.”

Leading the San Diego County charge

Just like the federal effort features the likes of the dynamic duo of Dr. Anthony Fauci. Dr. Deborah Birx, San Diego County has a trio of heavy hitting doctors leading the local coronavirus response. They include  Dr. Nick Yphantides, San Diego County chief medical officer; Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego County public health officer and Dr. Kristi Koenig, San Diego County medical director of emergency medical services.

Dr. Nick Yphantides/Axene Health Partners

Yphantides, who attended medical school at the University of California, San Diego, serves as the liaison for the entire Emergency Medical System, the entire local health care delivery system, the entire physician and medical society network, the payor system, and the proportion of the area population using Medi-Cal.

“In the context of the COVID-19 response, [the county’s health care team established] an entire incident command system in our emergency operations center. Our emergency operations center is activated to the top level,” Yphantides said to MD Edge this week.

“San Diego is a more aged population compared to many other parts of the country,” Yphantides continued. ” I’m frantically doing everything I can to prepare, to batten down the hatches, and to optimize our health care delivery system because we have a population that collectively is more at risk (for COVID-19).”

Wooten has been with the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency since 2001, initially as Deputy Health Officer and, since 2007, as the Public Health Officer. Trained in family medicine, public health, and preventive medicine, she has oversight for almost 500 employees and a budget of over $100 million, serving a county of 3.1 million residents.

A graduate of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where she obtained a master’s degree in public health in 1981, Wooten received a medical degree in 1986. She completed her residency training at the Georgetown/Providence Hospital Family Practice Residency Program in Washington, D.C. in 1989.

“The County of San Diego has an established preparedness and response system in place,” Wooten said. “This process brings together surveillance, criteria to guide evaluation of a patient under investigation, epidemiological investigation, public health laboratory testing, education and outreach, and levels of response.”

Dr. Kristi L. Koenig

Koenig’s official role includes providing medical direction and management of the EMS system, approving standards, policies, protocols and procedures. She oversees the County’s Public Access Defibrillation Program, issues EMT-Basic certifications, and authorizes Mobile Intensive Care Nurses.

Working the last threeyears with Dr. Yphantides for 3 years, said that she routinely feeds him information that might help the team navigate its response to COVID-19. “For example, if I see an idea for how to get more [personal protective equipment] and feed it to him, he might have a contact somewhere in a factory that could make the PPE,” she said. “We work together by my reminding him to keep it within the incident command system structure, so that we can coordinate all the resources and not duplicate efforts.”

Aiding San Diego County health workers on the front lines

Nurses on the county’s front lines in the fight to contain coronavirus shared some of their thoughts with NBC 7 San Diego last week.

“I think every nurse that’s working in a hospital or medical office is concerned right now,” says Becky Buckingham, a registered nurse with Kaiser Permanente’s San Diego Medical Center.

“We see what’s going on in New York right now, and they’re a couple of weeks ahead of us,” Buckingham said. “We’re ready for the peak.”

Hospitals have received donations for masks and protective gear and companies are offering workers freebies as they provide valuable services to the community.

Here are some ways, according to KGTV ABC 10 News, that locals can help support those working in hospitals and as responders amid the pandemic:

Hospital donations: Sharp Healthcare, UC San Diego Health, and Scripps Health are all facilitating donations to health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic. For info on donating to Sharp and UCSD, click here. For info on donating to Scripps, click here.

Feeding workers: The San Diego Dining Group (which includes Greystone the Steakhouse, Saltwater, Butchers Cut, Osetra the Fishouse, Oseteria Panevino, and Farmers Table) is feeding health care workers and first responders for free with community kitchens during the pandemic. A GoFundMe to keep this service going has been started.

Pho Ca Dao & Grill: Pho Ca Dao & Grill is offering on-duty first responders free meals at their locations. Meals will be available for the first 50 first responders per day, through April 16, between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. Responders can show up in uniform or show their credentials, and also have the option to call in an order for pickup.

Mostra Coffee: Mostra Coffee is selling “Gratitude Boxes” that locals can send to those working on the frontline during the coronavirus pandemic. Proceeds from the sales of these packs with be donated to the CDC Foundation Emergency Response Fund.

Kombucha On Tap: Gift growlers of kombucha or cold brew coffee to local health care workers and first responders with Kombucha on Tap. Buyers can either choose who specifically to send the gift to or the company will pick from its list of frontline workers.

Krispy Kreme: Every Monday through the week of May 6, Krispy Kreme will be giving out dozen donuts free to health care workers. Health care workers just need to present their employer badge to claim a dozen donuts.

Starbucks: First responders and frontline workers can get a free tall brewed coffee at Starbucks through May 3.

Circle K: A free coffee, tea and Polar Pop Fountain is being offered to first responders and health care workers at Circle K until April 30, with a valid employer ID.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer called Monday, April 6 for all local medical residents, nursing students or former medical workers to register with the state to help treat an expected surge in COVID-19 patients, according to City News Service.

The mayor’s call to action follows last week’s creation by Gov. Gavin Newsom of the California Health Corps, a state-led effort to recruit additional healthcare professionals to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Faulconer asked current residents and nursing students in San Diego, as well as retired healthcare professionals or former medical workers who moved onto a different career, to join up. Those who register will be paid and receive malpractice insurance coverage, he said.

“You’ll be given an opportunity to play a critical role in this public health emergency,” Faulconer said.

Those interested in signing up can visit www.sandiego.gov/coronavirus, which includes a link to the California Health Corps page.

Last week, Faulconer issued an order making all city properties available for use to treat COVID-19 patients, as he said it was expected that local hospitals will see a surge of new patients that could lead to overwhelmed hospitals and staffs.

“We are expecting some type of surge and we must be ready to provide the medical services necessary to save lives,” Faulconer said.

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