Mask policy and political dysfunction
Physician discusses covid’s ongoing threat
I serve our communities as a family physician, medical director in my healthcare organization, and as Waushara County Public Health medical director. I have built teams to help alleviate the physician workforce shortages in our area and I have delivered on several significant quality improvement projects that have improved the medical care our residents receive, to include bringing obstetrical and addiction medicine care to an underserved population and by improving our systems of chronic disease management to keep our residents healthy and out of the hospital.
There is a cultural phenomenon we are experiencing with the political dysfunction observed locally and in the United States, and it is deeply disturbing and frustrating for the entire populace involved. I believe we are outgrowing our two-party political system as it seems neither party is capable of competent governance alone. The majority of our local citizens, and the country at large, can agree we no longer desire the status quo of this government dysfunction and overreach into our lives. One political battle at a time, our great American Institutions are being tested and their necessity questioned. What will replace them when they are toppled by the average citizen’s public opinion of matters requiring expertise and professional training? Should any person without adequate training be able to practice medicine and prescribe medications?
It is the standard in public schools that classrooms be free of peanuts when a minority of our kids with life-threatening peanut allergies may die of an exposure in their own classroom. Masks, vaccinations, appropriate physical distancing, and routine hand hygiene are no different for the immunocompromised child during a pandemic. What would you tell your child regarding mask choice if they were immunocompromised and their life was threatened by Covid 19?
I have a patient who is 12, resides in our school districts, and has had a renal transplant. He/she has had their Covid 19 vaccinations, but did not gain any immunity due to the strong immunosuppressive drugs which keep their own body from attacking their donated organ. The family cannot homeschool or pay private tuition. This is a real situation in our public school. Not having a policy to mask is no different than telling the child with a peanut allergy you will not be responsible if they die at school from exposure to peanuts. What do you propose is the legal liability of that situation, when this is a standard protocol for public schools to accommodate those in attendance with severe life-threatening disease?
When did it become acceptable to choose another’s human being’s level of risk in a public school setting? When did we become so caviler with another human’s life?
Meanwhile, our hospitals are full in our communities, burning with more patients than our nursing staff can handle, and life-saving emergency care is getting displaced. Masks are one of several strategies to decrease the spread. The vaccinations also help, but not as well as we would have hoped. The vaccinations do prevent hospitalizations, death, and other complications of Covid such as blood clots (which are common, even for healthy people with Covid), and they are proven to be safe and effective.
If things continue to deteriorate at our hospitals due to the critically ill and unvaccinated folks displacing routine emergency medical care, you can expect more employers and schools to enforce mandates for the vaccination. This is not government overreach; it is a drastic public health tool, and perhaps the last resort option to mitigate the losses of human life which we currently observe.
As a physician, I respect your right to choose what you do with your own body and health. However, it is important to understand that every choice has consequences, both intentional and unintentional. I don’t want to wear a mask any more than you do. If you think wearing a simple mask is inconvenient, you should try doing surgery with an N95 while operating on a Covid positive patient, that is uncomfortable.
Please understand your choices will contribute to the difficult life and death decisions physicians and health care workers will have to make with limited resources in our emergency rooms and hospitals. There are parts of our country, including Idaho that is now rationing life-saving care because of the limited resources. This is functionally socialized medicine at its worst. Some are not even getting routine life-saving care. There are many reports from my colleagues and my own professional experiences of established hospital standards being compromised in our hospitals, we will not be the exception without changes in our human behavior.
I do not want government overreach and I do not like to be told what to do, but it is clear that we have the power as citizens to collaborate, outgrow our dysfunctional political parties, and improve the health and wellbeing of our communities. I ask that you allow the folks with the professional experience to manage us out of this situation by following their lead in finally turning the page on this chapter in American History.
The pandemic will pass and masks will eventually end, I promise, but for now please help us take care of the health of our community by following DHS and the CDC’s guidelines for public schools and public spaces.
Zachary J. Baeseman, MD, MPH, FAAFP
Associate Medical Director, ThedaCare Physicians
Waushara County Public Health Medical Director
Rural family physician with operative obstetrics, Waupaca and Wild Rose