To the editor:

What has COVID-19 cost you? Many people are excited to say goodbye to 2020 and all the effects of the pandemic. Families in our community experienced the holidays without someone they love because COVID-19 robbed them of a beloved family member. What could be done to prevent another empty chair at the table in 2021? Are we doing all we can as a community to protect our family, friends and neighbors?

By now, we know the three W's: wait, wear and wash. Many made their family gatherings smaller this year or even took them outside for safety. Despite everyone's efforts, the number of people in Caldwell County becoming infected with the virus is climbing exponentially. The result of rising numbers is a strain on our area hospitals. Samaritan's Purse has set up a field hospital at Caldwell UNC Health Care in Lenoir. Laura Easton, CEO of Caldwell UNC, stated that the field hospital will provide the needed level of care for the community.

What other things can be done? We can listen to those who are experiencing all the horrors of COVID-19 firsthand. In a recent conversation with a nurse who works with COVID-19 patients in a local hospital, there was concern that more could be done. The isolation of COVID-19 is heartbreaking. Patients cannot have visitors, and many times nurses are the last comforting faces patients see before they leave this world. In this conversation, this selfless servant pleaded with me to do everything I could to stop the spread. Of particular concern to her was the return of students to in-person learning amid skyrocketing positive cases of COVID-19. She stated that parents and grandparents can be sickened by children and young adults who are not showing symptoms. Her suggestion was that a few weeks of online instruction could save lives and ease the burden on our health care facilities. In the Dec. 30 Caldwell County Board of Education meeting, eight out of 11 school nurses concurred with delaying in-person learning for a short period to reduce the after-holiday surge of COVID-19.

We never really understand a situation until we have experienced it for ourselves. The nurses who serve our community have experienced all that COVID-19 has to offer. What else can we do to save the lives of our family, friends and neighbors? Maybe we should listen to those on the frontlines. Would it be worth saving a life?

Sherry Smith