Plexiglass face shields separate shoppers and cashiers, face masks conceal smiles, and video conferencing calls have replaced evenings with friends. But despite the many ways that COVID-19 has altered our landscape and routines in recent weeks, I’m inspired by the manner in which Rutherford County residents have demonstrated consistent resilience, grace, and compassion for their neighbors.
Over the past few weeks, community members organized a parking lot vigil at Ascension Saint Thomas Rutherford that celebrated our hard-working associates and moved many of them to tears. Local school children colored encouraging chalk messages on the sidewalks of our hospital campus so that hard working care providers could glance down and feel inspired. The University of Tennessee Foundation, Parks Family of Realtors, and Five Senses Restaurant banded together to provide lunch for dozens of our employees. We also want to thank Chick Fil A, O’Charleys, Atmos Energy, and Lemongrass for their generosity. Many Middle Tennessee media outlets have honored our caregivers with special shout-outs in print, online, and on TV and radio. We were even treated to a special flyover by the US Navy Blue Angels.
This tremendous outpouring of support from our community aligns with the bravery and generosity of our Ascension Saint Thomas Rutherford associates, many of whom have sacrificed time with their loved ones in order to keep Rutherford County healthy. Many hours of work were devoted to making sure our hospital would be ready for a possible surge of Covid-19 patients. While we haven’t encountered situations that our colleagues in large cities such as New York and Chicago have experienced, we remain vigilant in our readiness to care for all patients entering our doors.
As Tennessee reopens and we transition into a “new normal,” Ascension Saint Thomas Rutherford will continue to abide by CDC and WHO recommendations for infection control. Around the nation, including right here in Rutherford County, there has been a concerning recent decline in Emergency Department visits. Evidence suggests that people in need of emergency medical care for symptoms of heart attack, stroke, or other serious health events may be postponing hospital visits due to fear of COVID-19 exposure. I want to assure you that we have established stringent safeguards to minimize COVID-19 exposure risk for caregivers, patients, and all community members.
Ascension Saint Thomas Rutherford joins other Ascension Saint Thomas facilities in maintaining temporary visitor limitations and screening protocols for all individuals entering hospitals, including temperature checks for 99.5 degrees or higher. he health system will also require every patient scheduled for an elective or non-emergency surgery to undergo screening and, when appropriate, testing for COVID-19.
If you are in immediate need of emergency medical care, the hospital remains the safest place for you to be. Our associates are working around-the-clock to ensure the well-being of you and your loved ones. This pandemic has been an exhausting time for our world and our community, but the grace and resilience of our healthcare workers and residents makes me feel confident that progress is around the corner. Thank you, Rutherford County, for making your compassion tangible with acts of service and words of kindness written in chalk.
And those concealing face masks? Take a second look and you might just notice the sparkle of a smile in someone else’s eyes.