Phillip Rozeman: 2020: We Can Be Thankful

The COVID virus has changed everyone’s world. Many grieve over the loss of friends and loved ones. Many have suffered great personal loss. Health and careers have been impacted. Many have experienced the crush of change from mental, spiritual and other health concerns in caring for children and aging parents. The last few months have been a time of personal disruption and I will never minimize the suffering of 2020.

However, among all this disruption, a foundation for a better 2021 has been laid.  There are blessings to count and gratitude to be expressed. I offer this opinion piece as the last of a dozen or so opinion pieces I have written this year.  It is to express thanks, hope and confidence as we enter 2021. We can be thankful.

We can be thankful for effective and safe vaccines against COVID-19 and for the scientists who persisted in the research to unlock the viral genome and bring new vaccine technology to the world. This technology will not only be the key to vaccines for this pandemic but also vaccines of future pandemics.

We can be thankful for the scientific method that held up during the most difficult times of the pandemic and the hundreds of thousands of people across the world who volunteered for scientific trials of vaccines and treatments for COVID-19.

We can be thankful for pharmaceutical companies that worked together 24/7 to create vaccines that will end the virus stranglehold on our lives.  We can be thankful for the part of the research work done at LSU Health Sciences Center/Ochsner and Willis-Knighton in studies of vaccines and treatments for COVID-19.

We can be thankful for doctors who worked together across the globe to learn and share with each other to improve treatment regimens. We can be thankful for the epidemiologists who did large scale testing to determine early on in the pandemic that the mortality rate projections were way off target.  This allowed us to terminate some of our strict lockdown and stay at home policies and consider opening schools.

We can be thankful for nurses, doctors, aides, respiratory therapists and housekeeping services who worked every day in ICU’s and hospital wards with COVID patients, and we can be thankful for the healthcare workers who worked extra hours with increased shifts to care for the non-COVID patients in our hospitals.

We can be thankful for nursing home attendants caring for the highest risk patients in a COVID environment as critical or more critical than a hospital with less availability of Personal Protective Equipment. They saved many people with constant cleaning, frequent testing and loving care.

We can be thankful for healthcare systems in our community that stayed flexible and handled the major logistics and personnel difficulties of the pandemic with patience and a collaborative spirit. We can be thankful for the families that supported those healthcare workers at a time when the fear of COVID was at its peak.

We can be thankful for President Trump and Operation Warp Speed – a strategy using federal government subsidies to reduce the financial risk and barriers to development of the COVID vaccine. Operation Warp Speed combines the scientific and manufacturing expertise of pharmaceutical companies with the logistical expertise of the military, FedEx, UPS, hospitals and pharmacies. The result is safe and effective vaccines early in 2021 – saving potentially hundreds of thousands of lives across our nation during the coming year.

We can be thankful for Governor Edwards who considered both the health and economic consequences in making decisions for our state and kept common sense in the equation when other governors overreacted with complex lockdown schemes.

We can be thankful for politicians at the federal level – both Republicans and Democrats – who came together to enact relief packages like the CARES Act to support people who lost their jobs or businesses during the pandemic.

We can be thankful for the resilience of America’s private enterprise resulting in a much stronger economic outlook than expected.  We can be thankful for those small business owners who helped their employees even more than they could really afford to do.

We can be thankful for businesses – large and small – that pivoted their operations in a matter of weeks to protect their workforce and provide products needed during the pandemic.  We can be thankful for truck drivers, grocery store workers, police officers, firemen, farmers and other essential workers who left their home every day and came to work to serve others. We all learned the importance of those who work hard every day to serve others for little accolade or money.

We can be thankful for faith based and non-profit group efforts to carry forward their mission of serving those in need even while the pandemic raged. We all remember the video of lines of people waiting for food provided by food banks and churches.

We can be thankful that COVID-19 results in relatively mild symptoms in children and we can be thankful for teachers who didn’t let the virus come between them and educating and loving their students. We can be thankful for the school districts in Northwest Louisiana who kept schools open.

We can be thankful for Christmas and that “Joy to the World” comes even if we can’t be with all our family. And we can be thankful that God cares for us – that we can hold onto Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and help you. I will uphold you with my righteousness.”

Don’t tell me Americans don’t work together. I know better, 2020 proves it.

Dr. Phillip Rozeman is a practicing cardiologist. He is past Chief of Staff of Willis-Knighton and Minden hospitals and past board chair of Northwest Louisiana Medical Society, Greater Shreveport Chamber and Blueprint Louisiana.