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Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021

A More Optimistic Future

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2021: We can be thankful and hopeful

The COVID virus has changed everyone’s world. Many grieve over the loss of friends and loved ones. Many have suffered great personal loss. Health and careers have been impacted. Many have experienced the crush of change from mental, spiritual and other health concerns in caring for children and aging parents. The last few months have been a time of personal disruption for everyone – some worse than others. Many will remember the suffering of 2020.

We enter 2021 with high case rates, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID. However, among all this disruption, a foundation for a better 2021 has been laid. I offer this opinion piece as the last of a dozen or so opinion pieces I have written in the past year.

As we enter 2021, this piece expresses thanks, hope and confidence from someone providing care for COVID patients since March.

We can be hopeful because of effective and safe vaccines against COVID-19 and for the scientists who persisted in the research to unlock the viral genome and bring new vaccine technology to the world. I am personally thankful after completing the vaccine protocol at the beginning of January.

This technology will be the key to vaccines for this pandemic and vaccines for future pandemics. Because of the vaccine, there is a light at the end of the current tunnel.

We can be thankful for the hundreds of thousands of people across the world who volunteered for scientific trials of vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 and for pharmaceutical companies that worked together 24/7 to create vaccines that will end the virus stranglehold on our lives. We can be thankful for the part of the research work done at LSU Health Sciences Center/ Ochsner and Willis-Knighton in studies of vaccines and treatments for COVID-19.

We can be thankful for doctors who worked together across the globe to learn and share with each other to improve treatment regimens. We can be grateful for the epidemiologists who did largescale testing to determine early on in the pandemic that the mortality rate projections were way off target. This allowed us to terminate some of our strict lockdowns and stay at home policies and consider opening schools.

We can be thankful for nurses, doctors, aides, respiratory therapists and housekeeping services who worked every day in ICUs and hospital wards with COVID patients. We can be grateful for the health-care workers who worked extra hours with increased shifts to care for the non-COVID patients in our hospitals.

We can be thankful for nursing home attendants caring for the highest COVID risk patients. They saved many high-risk people with constant cleaning, frequent testing and loving care.

We can be thankful for President Trump and Operation Warp Speed – a strategy using federal government subsidies to reduce the financial risk and barriers to the development of the COVID vaccine. Operation Warp Speed combines pharmaceutical companies’ scientific and manufacturing expertise with the logistical expertise of the military, FedEx and UPS to get vaccines to local hospitals and pharmacies.

The result is safe and effective vaccines early in 2021 – potentially saving hundreds of thousands of lives across our nation during the coming year. Nothing done in the last few years by the federal government comes even close to the importance of this work.

We can be thankful for Governor Edwards, who considered both the health and economic consequences in making decisions for our state and kept common sense in the equation when many other governors overreacted with complex lockdown schemes throughout the pandemic.

We can be thankful for politicians at the federal level – both Republicans and Democrats – who came together to enact relief packages to support people who lost their jobs or businesses during the pandemic.

We can be thankful for America’s private enterprise’s resilience, resulting in a much stronger economic outlook than expected. We can be thankful for those small business owners who helped their employees even when it was not readily affordable and for businesses – large and small – that pivoted their operations in a matter of weeks to protect their workforce and provide products needed during the pandemic.

We can be thankful for truck drivers, grocery store workers, police officers, firemen, farmers and other essential workers who left their homes every day and came to work to serve others. We all learned the importance of those who work hard every day to help others for little accolade or money.

We can be thankful for faith-based and non-profit group efforts to carry forward their mission of serving those in need even while the pandemic raged. The video of lines of people waiting for food provided by food banks and churches is a picture of Americans helping each other.

We can be thankful that COVID-19 results in relatively mild symptoms in children, and we can be thankful for teachers who didn’t let the virus come between them and educating and loving their students. We can be thankful for the school districts in Northwest Louisiana who kept schools open.

We can be thankful for this past Christmas that “Joy to the World” comes even if we can’t be with all our family during hardship. And we can be thankful that God cares for us – that we can hold onto Isaiah 41:10: “So do not fear for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and help you. I will uphold you with my righteousness.” We can be thankful and hopeful.

Don’t tell me Americans don’t work together. I know better. 2020 proves it, and 2021 will prove it again.

Dr. Phillip Rozeman is a practicing cardiologist. He is past chief of staff of Willis-Knighton and Minden hospitals and past board chair of Northwest Louisiana Medical Society, Greater Shreveport Chamber and Blueprint Louisiana.

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