BISBEE — “I get it. The public is tired of this. We’re tired of this. There’s all kinds of reasons we’re tired of it. But, this thing is not going to go away. It’s going to be with us for a long time.”

So said Dr. Edward Miller, the chief medical officer Copper Queen Community Hospital, in regard to the current rise in positive COVID–19 cases after the holidays.

Though cases have dropped since the high of 1,261 cases the week of Dec. 6, the number is still of concern. From Jan. 3 through Jan. 9, 654 positive cases were logged.

“The biggest cause of the spread is letting our guard down,” said Miller.

The increase in cases will continue as long as people do not take seriously the need to follow the simple guidelines set out months ago by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Miller and his staff, as well as other medical providers, have consistently determined the spread of the virus in Cochise County is due to small gatherings of family and friends who think they are not infected. Douglas, for instance, is a hot spot with the highest case numbers in the county.

“We think because we work or live with people that we are safe and they are safe,” Miller said. “But there is a problem with thinking everything is all right because we know them. There are many people who have the virus and are asymptomatic.

“We’ve got to keep hammering at people to wear masks, maintain social distancing, wash hands and don’t gather together.”

When a person presenting COVID–19 symptoms comes into the emergency room, staff have to carefully put on all the gear required to prevent spread of the virus, Miller said. Getting in the protective suits, gloves, N–95 masks, another masks over the N–95 masks and face screens takes time. Getting out of the gear properly is even more important to prevent coming in contact with any viral particles that could expose medical teams to infections.

“We will keep doing our jobs, but if people would just behave … ,” he emphasized. “Japan has the lowest death rate and they have their subways running with open windows and movie theaters open. Everybody wears masks. It’s dishonorable not to wear a mask.”

As of Monday morning, 65 percent of the Intensive Care Units in the hospitals around the state are filled with COVID–19 cases, he said. It creates problems for others who may need ICU care from heart attacks, strokes and other medical conditions and vehicular accidents. Hospitals must have room available for such emergencies.

“We’re concerned hospitals will reach capacity and people could die,” he said.

Just getting people who need ICU treatment to a hospital can also be a problem. Ambulance services, especially in the rural counties, can quickly become unavailable due to lengthy rides across the state, he continued. Ambulances that do carry virus patients then have to be completely sterilized and that takes the vehicle out of commission for a few more hours.

Another problem with ambulance transport is they do not carry the type of oxygen system COVID–19 patients in trouble need. As the virus builds in the lungs, the body can experience oxygen deprivation and normal equipment carried on ambulances does not meet the need.

Thanks to a $18,000 grant from the Legacy Foundation, CQCH is able to turn two rooms into negative pressure rooms, said Jessica Ogiba, CQCH communications director.

A negative pressure room maintains a lower air pressure, which prevents air from the room flowing out into non-contaminated areas, Miller said. The room also pulls contaminated air out of the room through a filter that cleans the air before being pumped outside and away from the facility.

Freeport McMoRan Inc., donated 1,000 N-95 masks, Ogiba added.

Though in the beginning days of the pandemic personal protective equipment was hard to get. Now the hospital has plenty, even a bit of a stockpile, Ogiba said.

Vaccinations begin

Monday, CQCH was busy giving vaccinations to people 75 and older. Miller said there were 300 doses and the registration had filled up.

Each person was given a card with the date of the first inoculation and the date of when they needed to get their second shot, 24 to 28 days later. People are notified of the second date and must have the card with them.

Just because someone gets the first dose, it does not mean the person cannot catch the virus, he said. Even after the second dose it can take some time for the body to build up immunity.

Vaccine myths

There are many myths associated with the vaccine. One of the main ones is people think it was rushed and they are reluctant to get the shots. They want to wait and see what happens.

However, Miller says the equipment and technology of today is far better than that used just 10 years ago.

The Mayo Clinic webpage explains: “Many pharmaceutical companies invested significant resources into quickly developing a vaccine for COVID–19 because of the worldwide impact of the pandemic. The emergency situation warranted an emergency response but that does not mean that companies bypassed safety protocols or didn’t perform adequate testing.”

Another myth is it will change a person’s DNA. The vaccine uses mRNA, which cannot affect DNA, he said. Vaccines with mRNA, a single-stranded ribonucleic acid molecule that is complementary to one of the DNA strands of a gene, are actually safer as they contain no viral particles. Instead, they teach cells how to make a protein — or even just a piece of a protein — that triggers an immune response inside the body and the formation of antibodies to attack the virus.

Some think the vaccine has luciferase in it and therefore is a product of Satan. Luciferase is a bioluminescent enzyme that comes from fireflies and is used in various testing and development stages ahead of the production of the vaccine. However, it is not part of the vaccination, said Miller.

“Luciferase is a commonly used biomedical research tool, and has been used, for example, in lab animals to study the most effective way to deliver mRNA vaccines, whether by an injection into the skin, muscle or a vein,” states the CDC.

Then there is the myth the vaccine contains a microchip. Not so says Miller. There is nothing on the market today small enough to go through a needle.

“People with concerns about being traced or tracked should focus their concerns on technology used in smart phones, social media sites and web browsers,” said Miller reading from a University of Michigan fact sheet.

Miller said nothing should stop the public from getting vaccinated. The soreness that comes with a vaccination just means the vaccine is working and gearing up the immune system to fight the virus, he said.

“People need to believe this is real,” he emphasized. “We do.”