By Cheryl Varner, M.D.
I am a physician in the Navy reserves just returning to Wyoming from serving in New York City. I was deployed to the Javits New York Medical Station in early April and began seeing COVID patients by April 8. This was at the peak of the number of COVID cases happening in NYC, the top of their “curve”. During that time, NYC hospitals were operating above capacity and our mission at Javits was to offload some of the less acute patients in order to make room in local hospitals to care for the sickest patients.
Javits was not a full-service hospital (think field hospital set up in a convention center). We provided approximately 4,700 hospital bed-days of relief to local NYC hospitals during our mission. Most of our patients got better and were discharged home, which was definitely cause for celebration.
The public health conditions of NYC are very different from Sheridan, WY. Population density, social determinants of health, and Health Care Systems all look quite different here. Retrospectively, it appears that COVID has not had community spread in Sheridan, even though we have had a few cases. When community spread occurs, we will likely see more cases and some hospitalized patients. I feel Sheridan County is prepared for community spread, if and when it occurs. If it does occur, we will need to protect each other (and vulnerable people) using the same tactics we have been employing so far, wearing facemasks in public, practicing frequent hand hygiene, and being tested if we have COVID symptoms.
Because someone can be sick with little to no symptoms (asymptomatic), they can spread COVID to other people unknowingly. It is also known that there is a pre-symptomatic phase of COVID when you can spread the virus unknowingly. This is why my family will wear a facemask, even if we feel well, to help reduce the spread of COVID. This was especially important in NYC with such a high prevalence of COVID and high population density.
I am overjoyed to be back home in Sheridan. I missed my family, friends and community desperately. Your support while I was gone meant the world to my family and me. I appreciate you all so much.
Cheryl Varner, M.D.
Sheridan Memorial Hospital Ear Nose and Throat