Gary Tetz

I’ve come to sometimes dread my McKnight’s Daily Update emails. The headlines never seem to be things like, “Ice cream truck brings joy to neighborhood children,” or “Frolicking kittens make long-term care resident smile.”

Instead, they appear in my in-box at 3:34 a.m. with mood lifters like “Expert warns: Upcoming flu plus COVID-19 season will be ‘like nothing we’ve seen before.’” I tear my eyes away, drop my phone and slowly step back like I’ve encountered a rattlesnake or cougar, but it’s always too late. What I’ve seen I can’t unsee. 

It’s really not McKnight’s fault. Delivering the unvarnished truth is its job, after all. You know, the don’t-shoot-the-messenger type thing. But like the pandemic, I’m just tired of bad news. There aren’t enough covers to pull over my head anymore. 

That flu/COVID-19 headline came earlier this week on the same day the Washington Post reported that Death Valley had achieved the highest temperature on earth since at least 1931. That’s bad news for the planet, but now I’m thinking of fleeing there for the winter, leaving my phone and my fears behind. I’ll wear sand-colored clothes and lie very still, and maybe those tag-teaming viruses won’t find me.

News about this flu/COVID-19 duo is extremely unsettling, like finding out someone’s unruly twin boys are going to pay an extended visit, and your house is filled with priceless china. Or maybe it’s more like LeBron deciding to take his talents to South Beach and create a super team. It’s uncouth. It’s not proper. Where’s the sportsmanship or sense of fair play? 

As usual, within long-term care, people seem to be handling this looming threat far more calmly than I am. That’s probably because as clinicians, you’ve been doing this for years. Your flu best practices are well in place, and the protective measures you’ve been taking against the pandemic will help control both viruses. You’ve also had a crash course in COVID-19 over the past few months, so it’s not like you’ll be battling a complete stranger. So though I sense some understandable concern, there’s considerable confidence as well. 

Me, not so much. If you need me, I’ll be in Death Valley with my phone off, waiting for the ice cream truck and hoping some frolicking kittens wander by. 

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a two-time national Silver Medalist and three-time regional Gold and Silver Medal winner in the Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He’s been amusing, inspiring, informing and sometimes befuddling long-term care readers worldwide since the end of a previous century. He is a writer and video producer for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.