As Alabama and Georgia move into the next phase of the COVID-19 crisis, those who have been caring for the sick in Columbus have their fingers crossed.

They have seen the worst of it, and don’t want to see it again.

“It’s important to remember that the disease is still going to be here,” said Dr. Brandon Dawson, Emergency Department medical director at St. Francis-Emory Healthcare. “We are going to see it. It is not something that just disappears.”

And after more than a month of shelter in place restrictions, Dawson said people need to know what happens next as the restrictions helped to “flatten the curve.”

“Flattening the curve, basically, was an attempt not to overwhelm the health system by having everyone who has core morbidities or could become very ill from this come in at one time,” Dawson said.

As more people venture out of their homes where they have been sheltering in place, healthcare professionals are nervous — and optimistic, said Sarah Thornton, who has been a lead nurse in a COVID-19 unit at Piedmont Columbus Regional nurse

“I know people are ready to get back to their regular lives, but I hope they will take it slow and continue to practice social distancing,” she said.

And it comes down to common sense, said Jack Rodgers, interim director of emergency services at Piedmont Columbus Regional.

“I hope that people won’t take this as an open book to go do whatever they want to, that life is back to normal,” Rodgers said. “If that happens, this isn’t over and we will have to deal with this for a while longer. I am sure of that. But if people use common sense — and I still have not figured out how you can get a tattoo from six feet away. That doesn’t make sense to me.”

Melinda Chase runs the lab at Piedmont Columbus Regional and she knows what she is going to do.

“For me and my family as long as we continue to see positive results in the community we will continue to practice social distancing and refrain from getting out in the public,” Chase said.

Inside the Fight Against COVID-19: A six-part series

  1. A different fight: This COVID-19 battle has forced healthcare workers and institutions to do things differently. And it has stretched them.
  2. On the front lines: The fight against COVID-19 is not an easy one, as spaces are converted to accommodate more patients and hospital staff face 12-hour shifts day after day.
  3. Reluctant heroes: Not many people would put nurses, doctors and lab techs on a list of heroes, but the COVID-19 crisis has elevated those on the front lines to that status.
  4. Helping hands: Both St. Francis and Piedmont have set up ways for those who work there to get the mental health counseling and support they need during the ongoing health crisis.
  5. Sweet recovery: Piedmont Columbus Regional and St. Francis-Emory Healthcare heroes have seen the devastation that is COVID-19, but they have also seen the flipside of that coin — recovery.