Letter: Duty to Inform

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My beloved father-in-law suffered as he lay dying in the emergency room of Saddleback hospital. He had had a massive stroke and there was nothing that could be done for him but keep him comfortable as his organs shut down. Except they couldn’t. They couldn’t give him the morphine drip he needed because the E.R. doesn’t have the necessary equipment. They couldn’t find a Comfort Care bed because the hospital was inundated with COVID-19 patients.

So we suffered with him. For 24 hours, his loved ones took turns, alternating between waiting in a tent, outside in the rain, and sitting by his E.R. Bed, watching through tears, as his body went through spasms and his lungs gasped for air. My sweet mother-in-law, his loving wife of 59 years, held him, trying to calm him and comfort him when the struggle looked and sounded especially torturous. She and my father-in-law couldn’t be surrounded by all of their loved ones, because the E.R. Bay is a tiny cubicle, separated from the hustle and bustle of doctors and nurses and other patients by just a thin curtain.

So, we waited in the tent on that strangely dark and rainy day in August. As loved ones arrived to say their last goodbyes, they would invariably ask two questions. “Why do we have to wait in a tent?”  “Why can’t he be in a room, getting the pain relief he needs?”.  I would give them the answer, “Covid-19”. The waiting room was filled with Covid-19 patients, the hospital was filled with Covid-19 patients. That’s when they would look at us, wide eyed, and say, “You never hear about Covid-19 in Orange County, only in L.A.!”  I imagine the people who we watched, all through that day and night, streaming into the E.R. with COVID-19 symptoms, thought the same thing. They thought they were safe from Covid-19 because they live in Orange County, where you never hear about COVID-19.

Yet, Orange County Supervisors Doug Chaffee and Andrew Do have blocked Supervisor Katrina Foley from allowing public health officials to do their job and inform the public about the current COVID-19 surge in a public forum. They expect their constituents to go online to seek information they don’t know they need.

Lara A. Horgan, Laguna Niguel

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