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Dr. Jacqueline Fincher

It has been almost two years since everyone had their life interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jacqueline Fincher, a doctor at Center for Primary Care, is a healthcare professional in McDuffie County that has been dealing with COVID.

According to Fincher, since the holidays there has been a rapid rise in COVID, and roughly 90 percent or more are expected to be of the Omicron variant.

Fincher added that there has been a big spike in cases from Dec. 16, when the positive test rate was at five percent, to Dec. 28 when the positive test rate increased to 24 percent. On Jan. 8, the positive test rate got up to 38 percent, and as of Jan. 16, the positive test rate has gone down to 29 percent.

“It’s holding steady, but a far cry from the less than five percent it should be,” Fincher said.

Fincher discussed the kind of effect COVID has had on the community.

“Covid has had a huge impact on our community like it has almost every community in the country and the world,” Fincher said. “It has caused enormous grief for all the families that have lost loved ones, including many children who have lost a parent or grandparent due to COVID. As I look in our own community, we have lost so many more people in the past two years than average. Our funeral home directors in our county will attest to having two of the busiest years on record. In addition to the huge emotional impact of so many deaths, many people have been very sick, hospitalized, and disabled from Covid for months, with huge medical, financial, and emotional burdens on many families.”

Fincher added that in the healthcare system, hospitals can get overwhelmed with the amount of patients they have.

“In the health care system, hospitals have been inundated with the surges, overwhelming the systems, where there are not enough hospital beds, ICUs or ventilators, in addition to physicians, nurses, and other health care workers to handle the overflow,” Fincher said.

Fincher added how much COVID has strained the educational system, administrators, teachers, and the children.

“Our children have lost almost two years of critical educational instruction that will impact them and our schools for years to come,” Fincher said. “Teachers and administrators have been stressed to breaking points trying to navigate in-person and virtual learning, with wide variation in success and failure to do so across our area.”

Fincher said having gatherings outdoors led to people letting their guard down, then the Delta surged from August until October.

According to Fincher, the cases went down afterwards, but increased once again once the holidays rolled around.

“The Omicron variant started like a match that lit a wildfire of infection with a dramatic rapid rise in Covid cases as I noted above,” Fincher said.

According to Fincher, it was amazing at how fast the knowledge about the new, novel virus had come.

Fincher added that the basic public health protocols for infectious diseases that can be spread from person to person by respiratory droplets were put into place. The three W’s, which is to watch your space, wash your hands, and wear your mask, were implemented.

“These 3 Ws are still the basic protocols for any infectious respiratory disease, because they work,” Fincher said. “Think of going to surgery and how we prevent germs from being passed to the patient.”

Fincher reiterated that having good hygiene regardless of where someone is, is still relevant.

Fincher said the protocols for protecting yourself and others has not changed. Social distancing, wearing masks, and frequent handwashing are still very important.

“But, as we learn more about the COVID-19 virus and the multiple variants, the recommendations are changing on how we learn to live with COVID,” Fincher said.

According to Fincher, with the knowledge that is out there now, there are ways to keep businesses and schools open with better shielding, masking, ventilation, and distancing.

“We have also come a long way in terms of testing for COVID that have made it much easier to know what to do if you have symptoms,” Fincher said.  “We have been able to go  from the PCR nasal swab tests that took days for results, to the rapid antigen tests that are ready in 15 min, and now to similar rapid tests that can be done at home.”

Fincher said that booster shots are available at every major pharmacy in town and at the Health Department.

They can be scheduled online, over the phone, or some are offering walk-ins.

Fincher added that the Omicron variant is a lot more contagious than previous variants, and can infect many more people.

“Omicron variant comes on faster than previous variants, most people developing symptoms within one to three days of exposure, but of course are infectious before they become symptomatic,” Fincher said about the Omicron variant.

Fincher said if someone is feeling sick then they should assume they have COVID until told or proven otherwise.