CEO Update | This is now a turning point for us
When I look back at this year, I will always remember Easter and how it was celebrated. It was the first time many of our families used Zoom to connect for a holiday. We were a little uncomfortable about our faces on camera, our hair was a little shaggier. The moment stands out for its novelty in an uncertain time.
Much of the world was on a stay-at-home order, so it had to be that way.
That is not what we face today. What we face is perhaps the most sobering situation during this pandemic. It is a turning point in the truest sense, and the power to do what is right is now in the hands of each member of every community.
I made a promise at the start of all this — that you would have the same information that I have. This has not changed. We are very concerned about you and your health. Never before have this many caregivers been out of work sick, more than 600.
Our infection prevention team investigates every caregiver diagnosis of COVID-19. Community spread is almost always the cause. Members of households who attend gatherings are unknowingly spreading this disease to their loved ones.
None of this is intentional, except for the choices we make to be safe. So I am asking you to make perhaps the greatest sacrifice of all during this time. Please reconsider your holiday gatherings for 2020.
Preparations at your home may already be under way for Thanksgiving. If you must celebrate, heed these new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They may seem unnatural, but we are asking this for one year. A unique year. Our communities need us now more than ever.
If you have adult children returning from college, refer to these tips for what to do about travel and when your children arrive home.
Each of us knows the right thing to do. We have responded to the calling that brought us into this profession. It is a reason to hold our heads up high — with hope for the future — and rest them at night knowing we have done all we can to keep our communities safe and healthy.
As Cleveland Clinic caregivers, we are all leaders in the community. Leaders make tough choices, sacrificing the present to preserve the future. Because this too shall pass.
When it does, I will be standing right there beside you, as we embrace our friends and loved ones.
Thank you for your understanding, support and leadership.
Tom Mihaljevic, MD
CEO and President
Coping with holiday gatherings during the pandemic
A version of this article originally appeared on Health Essentials.
Due to the rising cases of COVID-19, and the latest holiday celebration guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we will all need to rethink our holiday plans and make sacrifices for the greater good.
While this is stressful, Cleveland Clinic psychologist Adriane Bennett, PhD, shares tips on how to best approach a holiday season like no other.
“In psychotherapy, we talk about ‘coping ahead.’ If a big event is coming up, don’t wait until it happens,” says Dr. Bennett. “Start planning and coping now, which is especially good in this case because of all the uncertainty.”
Once the decision has been made to forgo the holiday trip or skip the family gathering, you’re going to have to cope not just with your own emotions, Dr. Bennett says, but your family’s emotions, too.
“For both sides, acknowledging some of the negative emotions and the sadness or disappointment is important,” says Dr. Bennett. “Sometimes, people believe that ignoring emotions is the same as controlling them but it’s not; it’s just suppressing them.”
Instead, it’s okay to admit that you’re sad and disappointed and that you’ll miss these events. But, it’s entirely possible to still turn the holidays into a positive experience with alternative plans, even if they’re not the plans you’d hoped for.
A change of plans
If you’re looking for ideas of how to celebrate differently, there are plenty of things to consider and it’s important to be in the right frame of mind.
“When you’re thinking about holiday rituals and adapting to new or different circumstances, ask yourself, if it’s something meaningful to you or something that feels like an obligation,” Dr. Bennett says. “If it’s meaningful, think about how you can still recreate a version of that.”
For instance, if food is a meaningful part of your holiday experience and you live in close proximity to your family, consider a masked and socially-distanced food exchange. “Bake various dishes and drop them off, be it sides or treats,” says Dr. Bennett.
Trading recipes online or sharing a meal together via Zoom or another video call option is also a way to keep the bonding going.
This goes for other aspects of your celebration, too, Dr. Bennett says. “If there’s a religious devotion your family likes to share or maybe just get together as a family and talk and reminisce, there are digital options for connecting.”
It’s important to be flexible in your thinking. “Some people can be very rigid about holidays but I would challenge that. Families and gatherings are always changing, things aren’t always exactly the same year-to-year. Whether it’s the birth of new members or the passing of others, marriages or other obligations like moves or being deployed in the military, things can look different every year. So maybe this year is just a different variation,” says Dr. Bennett.
What if my family doesn’t understand?
Of course, we’ve seen a wide range of reactions to the pandemic, from those who take it very seriously to those who treat it like it’s not such a big deal. And if you’re being cautious and following all of the CDC’s guidelines but your family is more dismissive, that could bring conflict.
If that’s the situation you’re likely to find yourself in, consider falling back on the “coping ahead” advice from Dr. Bennett. “If they’re willing to cross boundaries and make you feel uncomfortable about this decision, the chances are they’ve done that before,” says Dr. Bennett. “It’s possible it’ll come from out of the blue, but letting them know well ahead of time can help prepare them for any emotional let-down.”
Additionally, she says to keep in mind other points about your role in the family gatherings, your responsibility to your immediate family and your comfort level. “Be clear about those feelings and ask yourself what your goal in your conversation with your disagreeing family is. Is the goal for me to set a boundary and stick up for myself or my family?”
It’s key, Dr. Bennett adds, that the debate doesn’t drift away from your feelings and comfort level. “The goal isn’t to have a debate about the validity of science or why wearing a mask is important. That’s a tangent that could get you into an argument.”
Instead, she says, it’s about taking a stance of agreeing to disagree but setting your own personal boundaries. “You’re saying, ‘I have to do what is right for me and my family.’”
She also says it’s important that you make sure that the other person feels heard. “I would really talk to them about acknowledging their emotions, that they’re hurt, disappointed or angry. Or maybe they’re irritated that the pandemic is exaggerated.”
Still, Dr. Bennett says, it’s about setting that boundary. “It’s disappointing but it’s important to tell them, ‘Unfortunately with all the uncertainty, we’re going to stay home this year for Thanksgiving.’”
Returning to those alternative ideas — having a Zoom call or a meal drop-off — could be beneficial, Dr. Bennett adds. “Give them a few days to think about it, to let it sink in, and then tell them that you still love them, you still care about them and that there are other ways to celebrate.”
Accepting the inevitable
It’s also important, she says, that there might not be any compromise and that family members might still be upset. “Some people are going to be unhappy no matter what. We probably all recognize that behavior in a relative and if that’s how they’ve been in the past, that will probably be the case now.”
For them, all you can do is tell them that you’re sorry they’re disappointed and that you’re disappointed, too. “They have to cope with their own emotions,” Dr. Bennett says.
Feeling sick? Call the Caregiver COVID-19 Hotline
As cold and flu season quickly approaches, it is important for caregivers to be mindful of their health, so we can protect our patients and one another. Know the signs and symptoms of an Influenza-like Illness (ILI) and take the appropriate steps if you are feeling ill.
The symptoms of an ILI can include:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle pain or body aches
If you exhibit any symptoms of an ILI,call the Cleveland Clinic Caregiver COVID-19 Hotline at 216.445.8246. Experts on the phone will screen and assist you with next steps to determine diagnosis and how to return to work safely.
Update on postponing nonessential surgeries that require a hospital bed
On Wednesday, Nov. 11, we shared the decision to postpone nonessential surgeries that require a hospital bed at most Cleveland Clinic Ohio hospitals for Friday, Nov. 13, and Monday, Nov. 16.
We have now decided to extend the postponement of nonessential surgeries that require a hospital bed through next Friday, Nov. 20.
These are procedures that can safely be rescheduled. Nonessential surgeries will continue at Euclid and Lutheran Hospitals, as well as all pediatrics procedures. Urgent and emergent surgeries — such as heart, cancer and neurological procedures — and outpatient surgeries will continue as scheduled.
We are taking these proactive steps as the number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 increases. By doing so, we preserve hospital beds, ensure patients have their expected experience and avoid cancelations of procedures on the same day as surgery.
Physician chairs and institute leaders will work with their teams to implement these changes. As we monitor hospital occupancy and COVID-positive admissions, we will continue to take steps that ensure the safety of patients and caregivers. This is an evolving situation that we will continue to monitor. Thank you for your support and the work you do to take care of our patients.
Update on thermal scanning, screening changes
Earlier this week, we announced that our screening process was going to evolve. In light of the rise of COVID-19 cases in the community and among caregivers, we are keeping thermal scanning (temperature checks) and screening questions for caregivers, patients and visitors. We also appreciate the feedback you shared and want you to know we care about you.
Our current process will remain in place at facility entrances in Ohio and Florida. Just as it is today, caregivers will still be required to enter buildings at designated thermal scanning locations.
Additionally, we are not making changes to the patient or visitor screening process. Patients will continue to be asked screening questions at these times:
- when making an appointment;
- at entrances, check-in desks and kiosks;
- and in the exam room.
Universal pandemic precautions (masking and eye protection), visitation restrictions, hand hygiene, social distancing, staying home when sick and COVID Pass will continue to play important roles in keeping each other and our facilities safe.
While we based the initial decision to remove thermal scanning on sound evidence — with less than 0.1% of caregivers, patients and visitors having an elevated temperature detected by thermal scanning — we understand this is not the right time to remove a layer of COVID-19 protection.
Thank you for putting your trust in Cleveland Clinic and for all that you do to assure a safe environment.