Monday, March 23, 2020

Loving Your Neighbor During a Pandemic

Follow the link to my latest post titled, Loving Your Neighbor During the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic. What we do over these next few weeks will determine whether our communities decrease the speed of spread of COVID-19 or contribute to its spread. It is that simple. Every state across the nation has confirmed cases already, though some states are more behind than others in their success at flattening the curve. Every action taken to slow down viral spread matters, and the time to shelter in place is NOW.

Throughout the country, medical professionals have a serious lack of sufficient and adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). In some hospitals, administrators are discouraging physicians and nurses from wearing masks, which is dangerous, unwise, and unethical. They must stop. The concern is so serious that physicians and others gathered a million signatures in a couple of days to demand increased production and adequate supplies of PPE for every medical professional and first responder urgently. Please help us buy time to fortify our defensive capability. If medical professionals are ill or need to quarantine, that means less people to care for each of us if we need it.

I am not exempt. You are not exempt. Please follow the latest guidelines and stay home. Thank you to everyone who is already being a good neighbor by doing this! While home, I am so grateful that we are not helpless. We have the gift of prayer, and suddenly we have more time with our families to do just that. Let us add prayers to our actions, and pray for the safety of our communities, families, and medical personnel. They stay at work to care for us; let us stay home for them!

And if you are able to donate or get others to donate PPE to individual medical clinics and/or hospitals, please do so. Consider calling your physician to ensure they have all they need and, if not, perhaps you can help them obtain adequate PPE. You can help solve the medical professional PPE shortage crisis within the COVID-19 crisis!

We are in this together. Thank you for being good neighbors! Read more here and please feel free to share it!

Dr. Mari (Amaryllis)

Monday, March 16, 2020

Standing Together in Times of Uncertainty

I've been posting videos for several days to support, educate, and encourage my community, family, friends, and colleagues during this time of uncertainty. During this COVID-19 pandemic that will touch every inch of our nation and world, I choose to first reach up to our God, who is sovereign, for wisdom and strength. Thus grounding my heart and mind in truth and hope, I then reach out to others in solidarity and love.

I led a Lenten Day retreat titled Trusting God in the Deep on March 7, 2020, which ended up being just days before the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in our community. As the days go on, I see how this time we spent in God's Word together helped prepare me (and I pray all who participated!) for the urgency and surreal nature of this moment. Yes, I choose to trust God in the deep, in the wilderness, in the midst of this pandemic that is separating us physically while, perhaps, bringing us closer to one another in heart and mind, in longing and hope. 

I have chosen Psalm 19 as my focus for prayer and worship throughout this COVID-19 crisis. This psalm reminds me of God's eternal nature and sovereignty over all of creation. When everything we know and trust and rely upon crumbles, our Creator remains, day after day, ever in charge of every detail. Ever-present in our dark moments. Right next to us, even there, in the deep. 

Yes! Our God is the Hope that lasts.

When we are anxious, I am so grateful to know we are not alone. Trusting God during these moments infuses the mind and soul with hope, with faith, with the assurance that regardless of circumstances, the One who holds the entire world in His hands ... is sovereign, and He is good. He loves us and brings good out of evil, and order from chaos.

Perhaps God wants to use these last few weeks of Lent to bring families together in the safety and warmth of our homes to refresh our spiritual lives with a different type of worship. Perhaps God wants to deepen our reliance on Him as the very sustenance for our souls. Perhaps God wants us to be still before Him that we may experience and know that He is God our God (Psalm 46:10). 

Surely, God will work through this crisis in countless ways. I, for one, embrace His sovereignty and am deeply grateful for His great mercy. Let us pray for one another, for our nation and our world. He holds us even now.

Trusting God in the Deep,

Dr. Mari (Amaryllis)
Psalm 19

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. 
 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
    like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
    and makes its circuit to the other;
    nothing is deprived of its warmth.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
    giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
    giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
    enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
    and all of them are righteous.

They are more precious than gold,
    than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
    than honey from the honeycomb.
By them your servant is warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward.
But who can discern their own errors?
    Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins;
    may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
    innocent of great transgression.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
    be pleasing in your sight,
    Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. 

For more encouragement, read Trust: A Pathway to Peace (a timely message for such a time as this!).

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Letter to Church Leaders Re: This Weekend's Services & COVID-19

I have been asked by a national physician leader to post the letter I sent some church leaders to provide medical guidance regarding church services these next 2 weeks (effective immediately as of March 14, 2020). Please use as appropriate in your communities.

Good afternoon, (INSERT CHURCH LEADER'S NAME). I write to emphasize the importance of this moment in time for our community and country as we all make wise decisions regarding infection control to combat COVID-19 and prevail. The goal is to avoid a rapid rise in cases that will overwhelm our local healthcare system from the start. The medical community is very concerned, noting U.S. numbers are tracking almost exactly with the numbers of cases seen in Italy as the virus spread. If we avoid a steep rise early on and, instead, the virus spreads over a longer period of time, the medical system will be able to keep up with the numbers of patients needing care at the same time. This is the key concept I think some people aren't grasping. The response these next 2 weeks is absolutely critical, and we are already behind (U.S. cases are already above 1,700, and the rise has been exponential, as in Italy...).

Infection control measures such as hand hygiene, covering cough/sneeze, etc. are NOT sufficient when you place people next to each other for ten minutes or longer without the recommended 6-foot social distance between them. A church service that lasts one hour would have people next to each other 6 times the amount that's been shown to increase the chances of spread via droplet (coughing or sneezing).*

Also, the virus is not only much more contagious than influenza (the "flu"), but the treatments remain experimental and available only for "compassionate use," requiring informed consent. There is also no vaccine at this time, and we likely won't have one until 2021.

The unprecedented nature of this pandemic requires decisive actions to protect communities. Truly, our safety and health are in each others' hands. This public health emergency calls for accurate information, medical expertise, prudence, sacrifice, and actions based on science, and we have the benefit of seeing what's happened in China, S. Korea, Italy, Seattle, and California. If we act decisively NOW to prevent a rapid rise of the virus in our community, my physician colleagues, nurses, and other medical professionals will not only have enough supplies and equipment to provide the care patients need but also the personnel to do so. The rapid rise has the unfortunate consequence of also infecting more medical professionals, leading to staffing problems. Minimizing exposure to clergy is also essential so they may continue to care for their congregations, communities, and families.
A fork on the road: choose an abundance of caution!

A medical crisis needs medical interventions, and social distancing beginning NOW is the next step. Please don't allow our churches to threaten the health and well-being of our congregations and communities. I'm not suggesting cancelling services for 6 months. As an experienced physician with a background in infection control, I urge churches to begin by cancelling services today and tomorrow (March 14 and 15, 2020), this week, and next week, reassessing after that based on trends in the community and country, and expert recommendations from the medical community.

Thank you for the opportunity to communicate the essential medical perspective during this crisis. I believe it is possible to slow down spread of this virus, but only if we all act wisely, together. 

In Christ,

Amaryllis Sánchez Wohlever, MD
Board-certified family physician
Physician Coach and Patient Advocate
Author, Recapturing Joy in Medicine
My website


P.S. Instituting necessary infection control measures such as avoiding handshakes for now does not mean we stop expressing our love and affection for people. It simply gives us the opportunity to find creative ways to do so! Social distancing does not mean we isolate from others. We can stay connected with family and friends in different ways, leveraging technology and reaching out to our neighbors frequently, especially the elderly and those who live alone. Stay connected!

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