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Jerusalemites wearing a face mask walk in Jerusalem City Center on November 29, 2020, as Israel steps out of coronavirus lockdown and rolls back restrictions. 

A few weeks ago, Alisa Galitzer saw an expectant mother experience her worst nightmare.

At 38 weeks pregnant, the patient entered the women’s health clinic in Beit Shemesh in distress; she hadn’t felt her baby move since the day before. Following protocol, Galitzer gave her juice and hooked her up to a baby monitor, but was unable to find a heartbeat. Galitzer then accompanied the woman to do an ultrasound in the next room, where the doctor confirmed a diagnosis of a stillbirth. She was sent to hospital, and a few hours later, Galitzer’s boss told her that not only had the woman lost her baby, she tested positive for COVID-19 and will have to be in isolation for the next two weeks.

Galitzer, who interacted with the patient in close proximity—often without the woman wearing a mask because she needed to drink—had to enter isolation as well.

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Alisa Collins Galitzer at a COVID-19 parking lot testing site. 

While there have been studies showing an increase in miscarriages and stillbirths in women who test positive for the coronavirus, Galitzer, who made aliyah from London 15 years ago and now works as an oncology liaison nurse, shares this story with others because many don’t understand the far-flung complications that can arise if one tests positive.

It is a spiraling effect with no end in sight, she warns.

“This is every woman’s worst nightmare—just so horrific. In this case, corona just made it so much worse and traumatic,” she laments.

And it doesn’t look like this trauma will end anytime soon.

‘It’s the same pattern’

An editorial in The Jerusalem Post stated this week, “Through a combination of inconsistent government policy, flagrant disregard of regulations among certain segments of the population and the inevitable outcome of opening more of the country, the numbers of infected are steadily rising.”

Many health-care workers are anxiously awaiting the inevitable.

Mohamad Ghanayim, a graduate at the University of Haifa’s school of nursing who now works at the dialysis unit at Poriah Hospital, braces himself for the COVID rollercoaster every day he comes into work.

“It’s the same pattern. We go lockdown, the numbers go down, and then when things open up again, the numbers skyrocket once more,” he says of the government’s handling of the situation. Currently, his hospital only has 10 infected patients, but he predicts that number will increase as regulations ease and Hanukkah draws nearer.

Today, most people with COVID are sent away from hospitals and taught how to care for themselves at home with health-care workers checking in on them on a regular basis.

“In this second wave, we only take critical cases,” he says. “We usually tell people to go home or go to a corona hotel. But it’s always difficult to turn away someone who is sick.”

And while the patients who are hospitalized now are much sicker than those patients he saw in the first wave, Ghanayim is grateful that at least the staff now has the equipment in place to care for these patients.

He recalls in the first wave where the situation was so dire that even rubbing alcohol was kept under lock and key for fear it would be stolen.

“Then, people who were diagnosed with corona thought it was an automatic death sentence. We’re a bit smarter now,” he relates.

“As a health-care worker, I tell people that I understand we have to open up on the economy, but we also need to protect ourselves. We must adhere to the Ministry of Health protocols. If we violate those protocols, we’ll get another lockdown,” he warns. “I see the hardship in the eyes of the people suffering in this economy, but I’m also looking into the eyes of sick people whose health is collapsing.”

‘This is insanity’

University of Haifa nursing student Mayah Golan, who volunteers at Sheba Medical Center’s coronavirus ward, yearns for the general public to understand that this isn’t your common influenza.

“This isn’t the flu. You see young people who are very sick. There are a lot of after effects of the virus,” she says. “I understand none of us wants to deal with this, but to the general public, I say, please wear a mask and listen to instructions. Each person should be responsible for themselves.”

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Yasmin Halevy in her full PPE. 

As for Yasmin Halevy, she only spent a brief time at Rambam Medical Center’s COVID ward, but she saw enough to understand that playing fast and loose with Health Ministry recommendations is a recipe for disaster.

“We all want to go back to normal life, but we see if you open just a bit, people go overboard. Look at what happened with the malls,” Halevy said of the government’s decision to open a handful of malls across the country on Nov. 27 for Black Friday sales, which resulted in crowds of people clamoring to make holiday purchases.

As restrictions loosen up, Halevy predicts that the country will experience another wave in the rollercoaster where the same steps will be repeated: A rise in cases, more coronavirus wards opened across the country and threats of another lockdown.

“This is insanity; you can’t do the same thing and expect different results,” she insists.

But the challenge for most health-care professionals and the general public is how to deal with battling an invisible enemy.

“When I go into work, I worry that I might come into contact with someone who is positive for corona but isn’t aware of it. At least when I do home visits for corona positive patients and do corona testing, I’m in full protective gear so it’s actually less stressful, despite what people might think,” Galitzer says of her daily work in the clinic.

Like Halevy, she’s quick to dispel the myths: No, this is not the flu. No, young people can—and do—get it. And yes, it is possible to get COVID-19 twice.

‘Hanukkah will be bad’

With the eight-day holiday of Hanukkah approaching, and many eager to sing songs and eat latkes inside the homes of their loved ones, Galitzer is dreading the worst.

“Hanukkah will be bad,” she predicts. “Some people have just had enough. They say they’ve been wearing the mask for too long. Some people just don’t care.”

“My fears are that people are so anti-government at the moment and they’ve had enough of this quasi-lockdown,” she says. “Even if there is another stricter lockdown over Hanukkah, people won’t keep to it properly. That makes me anxious.”

With less comfortable options for people to congregate outside as the temperature dips and with many set to contract the flu, health-care professionals are bracing for the worst.

“I think we have to accept the fact that corona is here. It will get better, but not yet. We’re still learning a lot, and guidelines are frequently changing and being updated, but nothing is written in stone,” says Galitzer. “It’s unbelievably hard not to see loved ones. I haven’t seen my parents and family in London in over a year! It’s so hard not to be able to go about your daily life as we used to, but it’s what we have to do to get through this,”

The post As winter approaches, Israeli nurses hunker down as they continue to tackle COVID-19 appeared first on JNS.org.

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