Candice Anvari staff writer
A man was severely coughing as he entered Rite Aid Pharmacy. All the pharmacists froze as he continued to cough at the counter, waiting for a technician to assist him. Pharmacist Jessica Sanchez was worried that this man could be carrying the novel coronavirus, but there was no way she could have protected herself against it. The pharmacy was out of masks. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors, nurses and pharmacists put themselves at risk every day for the safety of others, so they want students to understand the extremity of their situations.
Researchers announced that 25% to 50% of people with COVID-19 are unaware they have the virus because they show no symptoms, making it more difficult for health care workers to determine what measures they need to take with patients.
Sanchez believes working in the medical field is “extremely” difficult during this time because of the unpredictability of the virus.
“It’s really hard to feel comfortable working in an area that you think isn’t safe anymore. I love my job because it keeps me busy and it allows me to provide for my family, but right now I feel like I’m risking my health,” Sanchez said. “At the Rite Aid I work at, we aren’t allowed to talk to customers behind a glass, so I interact with them face to face. That can be really terrifying at times when you know the patient is sick.”
Sanchez is worried that her job is putting her family at risk as well, but she makes sure to properly dispose of her gloves, change her shoes, wipe her phone and change out of her work clothes before coming home from work. Her employer hired a team to sanitize the pharmacy on a weekly basis, but workers are also able to stay at home on an unpaid leave if they feel safer doing so. Sanchez is scared to go to work every day, but she does it for her patients.
The same sentiment is felt by Dr. Halleh Bakshanndeh, a dermatologist in Beverly Hills with three kids in the district. Bakshanndeh decided to develop “telemedicine” to make her office a safer place for herself and her colleagues.
“Dermatology is a very touchy field of medicine, so when the virus first began spreading, I decided to close my office to patients and leave it open to my colleagues,” Bakshanndeh said. “I think this decision is great because now my patients send me pictures of any problems they’re having, and I treat them virtually. This allows my patient to stay safe at home and it allows me and my co-workers to stay safe in the office.”
Bakshanndeh has encountered kinks in the new system since it is a work in progress. She believes this new transition has been “weird”
because she’s normally used to seeing her patients “up-close and personal.”
“I love interacting with my patients because I develop really close relationships throughout my course of treating them. This transition has made it a little harder to have that personal relationship, but I’m trying to stay positive and remember that this is safer for everyone,” Bakshanndeh said.
Dr. Fariba Salehani, a dentist in Los Angeles, noticed that her patients still reach out to her even though she closed her office for the time being.
“I think it’s really nice when some of my dearest patients call me just to see how I’m doing,” Salehani said. “They don’t ask me when I’m going to re-open because they don’t want me to be at risk, and I think that’s the benefit of having really genuine patients.”
Like Bakshanndeh, Salehani will open her office for any urgent patients because she doesn’t want to turn away from those who are in need of emergency dental care. Salehani does not want to be negative about the new situation because she doesn’t want to be upset over things that are out of her control.
“I think we need to understand that this situation is affecting everyone, not just a few people,” Salehani said. “We need to put our desires aside for the time being and stay in quarantine as the state ordered. Or else, the situation could get progressively worse, and that will put more people at risk.”
Last week, Salehani had a patient spamming her personal phone with messages because that patient wanted to get her teeth whitened amidst this quarantine.
“If a patient calls me on my personal phone, I immediately think the situation is urgent, but this patient was spamming me because she doesn’t believe the quarantine is beneficial,” Salehani said. “I tried to explain to her that I couldn’t put both her and myself at risk for a non-urgent case, but she wasn’t having it. I had to tell her to go to another dentist.”
Similarly, Sanchez has regular patients who reflect well on the community and she has patients that reflect poorly on the community.
“There are some absolutely lovely people that I’ve treated during this time. Some of my nicest patients bring me coffee and chocolates just to thank me for taking the time to help them,” Sanchez said. “But there are also patients that complain to us about how long it takes for us to do our jobs. They come in and blame us for a line that goes out the door, but they don’t understand that we’re doing the best we can to help everyone in line.”
Sanchez believes that doctors are doing everything they can to help fight this virus. She’s thankful that she can help students, parents and teachers stay safe by doing her job.
“I think it’s important to have pharmacists during this time because people need their medications,” Sanchez said. “This is a really difficult time, but everyone needs to stay strong and lean on one another for support because we’re dealing with this as a state. I’m just glad that I can play a part in helping people get the medical assistance they need. My patients have been very kind and supportive. I think if everyone treats their doctors with kindness, this fight will be a lot easier for the people on the front lines.”
Salehani believes that everyone will come out of this quarantine with a new outlook.
“Before all this happened, it was easy for us to take what we had for granted. Now, we’re all excited to get back to our regular lives,” Salehani said. “I really believe that everyone needs to take the time to support the doctors and scientists who are fighting for us to get out of this quarantine because they’re helping us get our old normal back; but, I also believe that a silver lining can be found during this time, we just have to find things that make us happy with this new normal.”