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King's Daughters Medical Center President/CEO Kristie Whitlatch.

November is the month that begins a season during which people are encouraged to remember all of the things in their lives for which they are grateful. We share this gratitude with family and friends, and we enjoy their company as well as that of our neighbors. 

The celebration of this heightened sense of thankfulness and community begins in the days leading up to Thanksgiving and continues to grow throughout the season, culminating in Christmas gatherings and celebrations marking the beginning of the New Year.

This has been the way of things for generations, and many carry wonderful memories of these times throughout their lives. And we enjoy building upon those memories each year with celebrations, both private and public. But 2020 is a year that will be remembered as one spent beneath the shadow of a worldwide pandemic. People have endured sickness, apprehension and isolation since March; and far too many have lost their lives to COVID-19.

Health professionals around the country and around the globe have issued guidelines to slow the spread of the invisible killer that has claimed a quarter of a million lives. Federal and state mandates have been put into effect to reduce the spread. 

Locally, Kristie Whitlatch, President and CEO of King’s Daughters Health System, has been proactive in providing information to the public for their health and safety during the pandemic. On Friday, Whitlatch released another letter concerning safety during the season of gratitude.

“By this time in 2020, I think everyone had hoped our lives would be back to normal, or at least, close to normal. Unfortunately, that is not the case,” Whitlatch wrote.

“I know we are all worn out from the pandemic and are tired of hearing about wearing masks, staying away from people who we don’t live with, staying home, no large gatherings, etc. But these are still the most effective tools we have to stop the spread of the coronavirus.”

“In March and April, when the virus first hit us, we talked a lot about ‘flattening the curve’ and the things people could do to assist. There was a lot of energy and spirit behind this as everyone saw what was happening in big cities and no one wanted the same thing to occur in our region. People hunkered down ready to fight.” 

Unfortunately, as time passed and COVID-19 continued to spread, the numbers of those infected increased drastically.

“In the first 12 days of November alone, we have had 977 new cases of COVID-19 diagnosed through our testing sites,” Whitlatch wrote. “This is more than the total number of cases diagnosed during the entire month of October! Further, the positivity rate for November sits at 9.1% and continues to accelerate.

“Honestly, these numbers make me feel as though people have given up the fight. But we CANNOT GIVE UP, especially not now. Thanksgiving and Christmas are two of the most important family holidays of the year and both are just around the corner. We all want to be with our loved ones. We want to hug children, gather for meals and pass food while laughing and joking.

“And while I know this is asking a lot, I hope each of you will reconsider any plans for large gatherings.  As much as we want to be together, I am asking you to please think this through. How will Thanksgiving 2021 feel if you lose someone you love to COVID as a result of Thanksgiving 2020?”

“Hopefully we will only have to endure this hardship for one holiday season. But to put this into perspective, think about our country’s founding fathers, civil rights leaders and war veterans who sacrificed for years and often decades. Think about today’s health care heroes who are on the frontline. Think about the ones who will leave their families to work Thanksgiving and Christmas to care for patients. Maybe sacrifices for one holiday season are not so hard. Maybe we will be better people for it,” Whitlatch wrote.

Whitlatch noted a spike following each holiday throughout the pandemic.

Some suggestions Whitlatch offered for upcoming holidays:

• Plan a small, intimate Thanksgiving with members of your own household.

• Cook for the entire extended family and let them drive by for the best carryout food ever!

• Connect with family not living with you via Facetime, Skype, Zoom, WebEx or any of the many virtual technologies

• Write a personal note or card to those you love expressing how what they mean to you and why you’re thankful for them. Include the note with a care package that you drop by their homes.

• Coordinate with your “techy” family members to create a video commemorating Thanksgiving 2020. Share on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram … or old-fashioned email.

“Above all else, please don’t give up the fight,” she said. “Continue to wear your masks and encourage others to do the same. Practice social distancing and limit trips outside the home. Shop online and arrange for contactless grocery pickup. Wash your hands. And get a flu shot. We will get through this. Thank you for all of your support and words of encouragement over the past several months. It means a lot to our team and to me personally.”

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