Peter Nicholas, a writer for The Atlantic, who covers the White House, wrote an article on August 27, 2020, called “White House, Petri Dish.” In the article, he referred to the White House’s West Wing where the President and his top advisor’s have their offices as “a corona virus breeding ground.”
White House, Petri Dish
The article is getting a great deal of attention now that the President and many of his advisors as well as other staff and leaders have tested positive for corona. He described the west wing of the White House as a poorly ventilated cluster of small offices where many staff members gather in close groups, without masks. In his article only the maintenance people wore face protection. While certain staff members were evidently tested on a regular basis, many others and visitors such as himself were not and could easily introduce the virus to an area where it could be easily spread.
It raises the question for us in EMS to consider. Are we a model of infection precaution and prevention or are we a petri dish for infection? Now, I know we all wear our surgical masks when dealing with patents, and sometimes, face shields and full gowns when we suspect the patient has COVID, but are we wearing our face masks at our home bases, where we mingle with others crews and supervisors, in the hospital EMS rooms, and even in the front seat of our ambulance cabs when we sit shoulder to shoulder for the same partner for a twelve hour shift, or in some cases, a different partner for each of the shifts we work?
Many of us at times in our careers, usually earlier on, have felt invincible. We won’t get in car accidents. We won’t have heart attacks, strokes or get lung disease even though many smoke after each call and eat fast food throughout the day. Many believe they won’t be on the other side of the stretcher.
And I am sure many feel they won’t get COVID either. Nor will they pass it on.
But given the large amount of asymptomatic transmission can we really be sure we are not passing it on to our partners, patients and families?
The other day, I saw a medic fully garbed with gown, shield mask and gloves. He placed his stethoscope against the chest of the patient struggling for breath.
In 2009 study found that ? of the stethoscopes of EMS providers contained MRSA methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria. Did this medic clean his stethoscope after treating this patient? How many of us are cleaning our stethoscopes after every use? How many of those scopes contain COVID?
Third of EMS Stethoscopes Carry MRSA Virus
I don’t mean to sound alarmist, but many Americans who don’t wear masks may feel they are invisible as the White House apparently seemed to feel. I just don’t want us in EMS to fall into the same trap, particularly as cases seem to be ramping up again across the country.