By Kara Witherow, Editor
Psalm 23 runs on a continuous loop in Brandy Floyd’s head these days.
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me…”
Floyd, a busy physician assistant in Blakely and member of Blakely First United Methodist Church, is concerned about her patients, her family, and her community.
In the past two months, her family practice clinic, Pioneer Family Medical, has had to convert to telemedicine as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the small town.
Instead of examining patients face to face, the clinic is now treating 40 to 60 patients virtually each day, mostly via phone. If a patient needs testing, a nurse will don personal protective equipment (PPE) and conduct the testing at the patient’s car.
“We’re having to determine the difference between allergies and coronavirus over the phone. It’s very hard to determine sometime,” said Floyd, who also treats nursing home patients every other month. “I’m reassuring a lot of people, prescribing medicine over the phone … our goal here is to keep patients out of the emergency room.”
Early County, in rural southwest Georgia, had, as of Monday, May 4, 221 coronavirus cases, 23 deaths, and 13 hospitalizations, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.
More than 1,178,200 people in the United States have been infected with the coronavirus and at least 68,300 have died, according to a New York Times database. More than 1,000 additional deaths have been announced every day since April 2.
For Floyd, the COVID-19 crisis has changed everything about the way she practices medicine.
“It’s so different. COVID has changed so much,” she said. “Things are changing, literally, day to day, and we’re all having to keep up, and that’s hard to do. I’m used to looking things up, but there are no good studies to look up. There’s nothing out there. And trying to protect ourselves, our patients, and our families is a real struggle.”
She knows, though, despite the worry and anxiety, God is in the midst of this crisis. Psalm 23 reminds her of His promise.
“I know God is going to bring us through this and that psalm reminds me of that,” she said. “It does feel like the valley of the shadow of death right now – there’s so much unknown and there are so many deaths and so much sickness – but I have to fear no evil. I have to come to work every day and do what I can and be there for those who need us and know He’s with us.”
Lee Walker, a nurse practitioner at Optim Primary Care in Metter, is praying more now than before the pandemic.
“I am concerned for the people I know that are actually working on the frontline of this situation,” said Walker, a member of Statesboro First United Methodist Church.
As a family practice nurse practitioner, Walker said his practice is using telemedicine to continue seeing and treating patients, and he’s working hard to educate and inform as many as possible about the virus.
“I know God has all of this in his hands and thankfully we have the faith that this too shall pass. We will have to keep our eyes open to whatever comes our way and keep the faith.”
Working as an operating room Registered Nurse during the coronavirus pandemic is a stressful challenge, says Chris Merritt, a member of Hazlehurst First United Methodist Church.
All staff and patients at Coffee Regional Medical Center in Douglas undergo screening before entering the building, and only emergent and urgent cases are being treated. There has been a sharp decrease in the number of surgeries performed, Merritt said.
“One thing people don’t realize is how serious the situation actually is. It’s definitely to be respected,” he said.
Merritt has seen the community rally to support caregivers and patients by providing meals, holding a parking lot prayer vigil, and more.
“I have seen people in the community and hospital come together in ways that are refreshing. We have seen an outpouring of love and support from businesses, churches, and just the general public,” he said. “It’s so wonderful to see the outpouring of love during these times to show that God is still present, even now.”