With everything being shut down and everyone being essentially forced to stay home, it’s hard not to feel worried about the future, especially when it comes to being sick. In an effort to ease some fears, we talked to state senator and general practitioner Scott Jensen(R-Chaska) for his thoughts about COVID-19.
When asked as a doctor what he thinks the public should know, Jensen stated that while he is worried for people that are more vulnerable to COVID-19, he was also worries about the effects surrounding it.
“As a physician, it worries me that some of the decisions that are being made, that we’re going to lose sight of some of the people that are at the greatest risk,” said Jensen. “We’re saying we want to up the survival of the vulnerable population, but the supply chains are already being interrupted.”
He said that some people may not be able to get their medications, some of whom need those medications to function. Others, like many seniors, may be afraid to leave home, leading to some serious quality-of-life side effects such as not getting things like hip and knee replacements or blood thinning tests. These may seem like small worries, but they can add up in the long run for the people experiencing them.
“If someone’s blood-thinning is like a yo-yo, even a small bump on the head can be catastrophic,” said Jensen.
Chronic illnesses, mental illnesses, and loneliness are among some of the other things that worry Jensen, as isolation begins to affect people as well.
Jensen did offer a hopeful perspective. Despite numbers going up, and estimations from the surgeon general stating that there are likely plenty of undiagnosed cases, there aren’t hundreds of people in the hospitals in Minnesota. As of March 21, there were 12 cases of people with COVID-19 in hospital, out of a grand total of 21 since it arrived.
“I really need to think we need to be really need to be thoughtful when looking at the unintended consequences of our actions,” said Jensen.
As for going to the doctor, Jensen emphasized common sense practices. Got a sore throat? Grab cough drops. Running a fever? Take some ibuprofen to manage it as well as drink plenty of water. When things get worse or unmanageable, that’s when you need to go to the doctor. It’s also important to know the symptoms of COVID-19 so you’re not attributing yourself with something you may not have. And most importantly, if you’re sick, get rest and try to stay home, he said.
“You may not feel secure about common sense things, but that’s what we need right now,” said Jensen. “We’re in uncharted territory right now.”
Balancing the job of a general practitioner and state senator is no easy feat, especially with the Legislature meeting sporadically, though right now, Jensen admits that he’s certainly working more out of his office. The other thing that helps him balance his jobs and make decisions on what to support is being informed.
According to Jensen, his day usually starts with looking into where COVID-19 is, how many are infected, and how many have died as a result of it. While the numbers are worrisome, one thing he’s been trying to get people to remember is that, as of March 21, around 500 people in the U.S. had died from COVID-19.
“We need to be thoughtful and careful when it comes to suppressing the curve,” said Jensen. “I think we need to start pivoting towards using a laser-focused approach to protect ourselves.”
For Jensen, this focused approach means to start creating antibodies in the healthy, and keeping those at high risk of severe symptoms as safe as possible until a vaccine is complete. It would also be productive to getting tests going for everyone to see who’s gotten sick and who hasn’t.
And speaking of vaccines, about 45 people in Washington have been given an experimental vaccine, according to Jensen. In fact, because COVID-19 is so similar to the flu, the vaccine shouldn’t be too difficult to develop, Jensen stated. An anti-viral may be much more difficult, but even a vaccine could help reduce infection rates.
For now, though, with no vaccine available yet, Jensen encourages common sense practices, and a bit of optimism and staying informed.
“I have full confidence that we’re going to get through this,” he said.