Greene County coroner: Coronavirus a wildfire ‘raging now hotter than ever in our community’

Note from Community Impact Editor Amelia Robinson: Greene County Coroner Greene County Coroner Dr. Kevin Sharrett spoke as part of a press conference with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine Tuesday, Nov. 18. Below are excepts from his speech edited for clarity and space. Sharrett is Kettering Health Network’s medical director for rural health.

This virus can be likened to a fire: a wildfire that’s spreading across our nation. In fact, is spread across the world.

Fortunately for us, in the beginning stages of this we were watching from a distance.

We were watching the fire burn on television in metropolitan areas across the land. We really weren’t affected much. I had patients coming in every day and asking me, “Is this real? Does this exist because I don’t know anybody who has a virus. I don’t know anyone who’s sick. I don’t know anyone who has died.”

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Unfortunately, in the days and weeks that followed and certainly over the last 30 days, we’ve seen that change. We are right now in the throes of this fire. This fire is raging around us right now....

Now when you approach a fire you have two options. You can let the fire burn. You can let it burn out of control. And we know the consequences of the devastation and the destruction that occurs when a wildfire burns out of control.

Or we can try to control the fire and make it a controlled burn. When you do that you limit the damage, you limit the devastation.

That’s what our network and the networks around us are trying to do right now. As I stand here, as I speak, we cannot extinguish this fire.

We do not have the tools available today to extinguish this fire. Our best strategy, our best approach, is to try to control the fire.

Each and every day, our team is working, meeting, strategizing and looking at how we can control the fire, how the fire can be maintained and controlled.

Even though this pandemic fire is raging around us, unfortunately cancer goes on. Strokes happen. Heart attacks happen. Accidents occur. The challenge that we have as providers is to be able to provide the care needed on a daily basis which is a full time job, and at the same time mitigate this fire and control it.

As the governor has said, the cases are rising each and every day at record levels. As the cases rise, so do hospitalization, so do ICU admissions and so does ventilator usage.

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Unfortunately, so does death.

On a positive note, we are learning more about this fire every day and we’re learning better ways to try to control it and it’s those ways are effective.

They are useful, but nonetheless, the fire is real and it is raging.

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It was just one month ago today, that one of the first among us in our area, Dr. Mukul Chandra, came down with this virus. He fought hard for over six months, fighting this virus. Those of you who knew him and were his patients knew that he was the epitome of health. He was a director of a preventive health team. He was an avid runner. He was at the prime of his career.

Credit: unknown

Credit: unknown

And yet this virus destroyed his lungs. He died one month ago today while he was waiting for a double lung transplant. I think of the countless patients that I’ve seen that have been affected by this virus.

This virus can be likened to fire, but I also tell patients that it only took minutes for the tornado to destroy Xenia over 40 years ago and yet it took years to clean up the mess.

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This virus, just like the tornado will pass, but it’s going to take us a long time to clean up the mess. Unfortunately for some of us that have had the virus, some of our patients have had the virus, they’ll never be the same. I have a patient that is 34 years old. The virus has affected his heart. He’s now on oxygen and he’s probably never going to work again to support his family.

I have other patients that have affected all the complications that you can imagine: central nervous system heart, lungs, kidneys.

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And they’re never going to be the same from this virus. So this virus is real. And it exists. And it is raging now hotter than ever in our community. Our local nursing homes or local schools are fighting each and every day, and it spreads quickly.

One of our local nursing homes within a 48 hour period, virtually every resident in the home was affected by the virus and unfortunately many died. When people ask me, does it exist it exists, trust me, it exists and it’s real.

So people ask, “what can we do.” Patients ask, “what can we do.” We all know instinctively that wherever there’s a fire, when you play with fire you get burned. The closer to the fire you get the hotter it gets. So the first strategy is to stay away from the fire. I advise patients to avoid any exposure, whatsoever.

Now, the reality is, if you are out in public you are being exposed. So you have to weigh the risk, and the benefit. Is it worth the risk to expose yourself and expose your families to this fire.

So the first strategy is to avoid the fire any way possible. If you do have to go out, wear a mask.

I have caught a lot of flack about my mask public service announcement that the governor asked me to do.

And I’ll be the first one to tell you this mask is not perfect. It does not make you bulletproof. It will not completely protect you from this fire. But right now, other than social distancing and staying away from the fire, it is the best tool that we have. Along with that is just general health practices in terms of cleanliness and sanitation, and all of those things that we can do to mitigate and to slow down the spread because we can’t extinguish the fire right now. It’s burning.

Greene County Coroner Dr. Kevin Sharrett, a Republican, been a physician for the past 28 years at his family practice. He recently joined Kettering Health Network as its medical director for rural health.