Follow the Science: How Farm Country Can Beat COVID-19, with the National Rural Health Association

April 7, 2021

Follow the Science: How Farm Country Can Beat COVID-19, with the National Rural Health Association

Apr 7, 2021

Key Issues:COVID-19

Rural America faces unique challenges when it comes to beating COVID-19, and vaccination will play a vital role in winning the battle.

 

Two and a half million Americans are getting their COVID-19 vaccine every day. And as America takes this critical step to beating the virus and re-opening the economy, it’s more important than ever that rural America does NOT get left behind.

 

So the NCGA has joined a nationwide effort to support that process, the COVID-19 Community Corps. Together with other founding members, NCGA will promote the science behind the safe and effective vaccines that are a critical component in the battle against Coronavirus.

 

In this episode, we talk about the unique challenges we face in getting rural Americans vaccinated with Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association, and Carrie Saia, the CEO of a small-town hospital in Holton, Kansas.

 

 

 

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TRANSCRIPT

 

 

Alan Morgan:

You understand how science plays a role within agriculture, and you understand that you need to follow the science. There is a coherent reason of why this vaccine is safe and effective at this time.

 

Carrie Saia:

My dad was a farmer. I helped him give vaccines on our farm. He would have been first in line to receive the vaccine.

 

Dusty Weis:

Welcome to Wherever Jon May Roam, the National Corn Growers Association podcast. This is where leaders, growers, and stakeholders in the corn industry can turn for big-picture conversations about the state of the industry and its future. I'm Dusty Weis and I'll be introducing your host, association CEO, Jon Doggett. You can join Jon every month as he travels the country on a mission to advocate for America's corn farmers. From the fields of the corn belt to the DC beltway, we'll make sure that the growers who feed America have a say in the issues that are important to them, with key leaders who are shaping the future of agriculture. Two and a half million Americans are getting their COVID-19 vaccine every day. And as America takes this critical step to beating the virus and reopening the economy, it's more important than ever that rural America does not get left behind.

 

Dusty Weis:

The NCGA has joined a nationwide effort to support that process. And this week we'll be talking to the National Rural Health Association and the CEO of a small-town hospital in Kansas, about what it takes to finally close the book on Coronavirus. But if you haven't yet, make sure you're subscribed to this podcast in your favorite app. That way you can take us with you on your truck, your tractor, on your next trip and never miss an update. Also make sure to follow the NCGA on Twitter at National Corn, sign up for the National Corn Growers Association newsletter at ncga.com.

 

Dusty Weis:

And with that it's time to once again introduce Jon. Jon Doggett, the CEO of the National Corn Growers Association and Jon throughout the COVID 19 pandemic, disruption, tragedy, and heartbreak have been a daily presence in our lives. But as always, America has been able to count on our growers power through and get the job done. And our hats are off to farmers for the way that they've performed over the last year. However, there is hopefully a light at the end of the tunnel now. Two and a half million Americans are getting their COVID vaccine every day, case numbers and deaths have been dropping. Although now we're seeing a slight uptick as well, and we're hoping to do something about that. And it's finally possible to look at the year ahead and see a time when this virus isn't in the headlines every day.

 

Jon Doggett:

Dusty, if we learned one thing in 2020, it's that rural America is not immune to a pandemic, but we face unique challenges when it comes to rural health care, particularly when it relates to distributing and administering the coronavirus vaccine. Having this vaccine available gives all of us some hope that we're going to be able to return to something close to normal in the near future, but we're not there yet. And so we're going to be talking about what needs to happen to get more vaccines in more arms in rural America and how to get folks there, the protection that they deserve.

 

Dusty Weis:

But Jon, before we introduce our guests here, I understand that we have a little bit of news to break about the NCGA's role in fighting the coronavirus. I understand that we've received an invitation direct from the White House to become founding members of America's COVID 19 Community Corps. How did that come about and what does it mean for our members?

 

Jon Doggett:

Well, the COVID 19 community core it's a program that's administered through the US Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And it's to share science-based information directly with community organizations and Americans across the country to help them deliver the message that COVID-19 can be taken care of with vaccines. And we have to share that importance of vaccines throughout the communities across this country. And becoming members of the COVID-19 Community Corps makes this conversation we're having today even more important. Joining us today is Alan Morgan, he is the CEO of the National Rural Health Association, a national nonprofit with more than 21,000 members. The Association's mission is to provide leadership on rural health issues, through advocacy, communications, education, and research.

 

Jon Doggett:

Also with us is Carrie Saia. She is the CEO of Holton Community Hospital in Holton, Kansas. That's in the Northeast part of the state, North of Topeka, Northwest of Kansas City. Thank you both for joining us on the NCGA podcast. And I'd like to start with learning a little bit more about both of you, where you come from, how you got to, where you're at, and your work in rural health care. And so I'm going to start, Alan with you.

 

Alan Morgan:

Thanks, Jon. I appreciate joining everyone today. This is particularly exciting for me because I've been involved with health policy for 30 years, been with the National Rural Health Association for the last 20. But this is the first time that I've been able to do an interview with Carrie because I'm actually from Holton Kansas myself. And so, know the community and being able to watch a lot of success that Carrie's been having in her hometown when it comes to COVID. It's just a great opportunity to come together and talk about how rural communities are facing this challenge together.

 

Jon Doggett:

And Carrie, how about you?

 

Carrie Saia:

I started off my career looking in the nursing arena and was an emergency nurse, exciting job as a flight nurse for a couple of years, but the majority has all been in Northeast Kansas. I had the opportunity in 2008 to come back and help manage my hometown hospital. And have loved every minute and every aspect of rural healthcare. 2012 was asked to take the role of CEO, which was not in my future of what I saw for myself, and have been challenged and loved every aspect of that as well. It's different when you're able to take care of your neighbors, your bus drivers, your friends that you grew up with, you have a set of higher peg up of responsibility, I feel, because in turn will be able to see them at the grocery store, run into them at the gas station, and you have to feel great about the care that you provided and they receive.

 

Jon Doggett:

And I'm going to thank both of you for all the great work that you have done in this very important field. And this will be the first time I thank you, but I'm sure it won't be the last. Let's get to the topic at hand. We've been navigating the impact of the virus on our day-to-day lives for more than a year. And what a year it's been, what's been the experience and the impact of the virus in rural America, from your perspective? And Carrie, I'm going to start with you first.

 

Carrie Saia:

Looking back over the last year we pulled together our incident command teams. We were meeting twice a day just to keep up with the changes and the information that's coming out. We were one of the first counties in Northeast Kansas to have a positive COVID virus case. We were doing testing out in our Morton building just get to picture of that. Something that we storaged equipment and housing in and never in my lifetime would I have thought I'm going to take care of patients there, but it was a safe environment. The patient could stay in their car, that has changed. We have a new rural health clinic with a separate entrance, and we're doing some testing in-house now, which is nice. And our winners in Kansas to not have our staff out, taking specimens in vehicles. But we did not see a surge in our hospital of actually taking care of COVID patients until the November, December timeframe.

 

Carrie Saia:

And I think for some, that was our really, really challenging months where my voice cracked in an interview because I just was not certain how our staff were going to take the unknowns. And we have one ventilator in our hospital. We had one negative pressure room that didn't open up until just a couple of months ago. And our staff were just at their breaking points. When you have to take care of a patient for six, eight hours, knowing that if they need intubated, they're going to have to stand beside them and bag them. If the one ventilator we have is in use was very, very hard and challenging. Our staff have rebounded, they're resilient, they're doing much better now. The percent positivity is around 6% in our community currently. We have had higher turnover, we've had some that were close to the end of their careers and have retired early. And that impact has been significant. We've had to pay some agency staff, but right now we do not accept when in our home health environment. I'm going to knock on some wood right now. We're fully staffed in that arena.

 

Jon Doggett:

Well, I know just from all of the things that I've and read the stress and pressure on those frontline healthcare workers had to be just amazing. And when you're in a small community like that, you're dealing with somebody that you know, you may have gone to school with that person's kid, or you went to church with that person, or you were in the church choir with that person's spouse. I mean, it becomes real personal then and you have this pandemic that is just overwhelming. That had to be horrible.

 

Carrie Saia:

That along and not having the right supplies at the right time and asking people to make gowns for us because we could not get gowns. And we were using reusable gowns, just the creativity and the stress from a lot of different angles was very, very hard for staff.

 

Jon Doggett:

So Alan Morgan hearing Carrie's story, you've probably heard that story a time or two from some of your members as well?

 

Alan Morgan:

Over and over again, unfortunately. Carrie's facility is not unusual in a sense that it's designed for primary care and general surgery, and they do a great job of that. Looking nationally, just the quality measures of a facility like Carrie's is comparable, and many times better than their urban counterparts. But the fact of the matter is these small-town hospitals were never designed for a global pandemic, and there are so many great aspects of rural America. And obviously like you Jon, I'm a little biased and I'd rather be in a small town than in urban area. But when it comes to a global pandemic, this was the worst possible setup. You've got these hundreds of small towns all across United States. They've got a higher percentage of elderly and a much higher percentage of the population with multiple chronic health issues, not one but multiple. All of these measures made these the worst possible communities for a global pandemic.

 

Alan Morgan:

And you add on top of that in a small town. And this happens again and again, you've got the whole population really funneling through five or six businesses, the Dollar General, the Walmart, the church. And so you've got the entire community on a regular basis that are highly susceptible to a pandemic coming through these choke points. In communities that are set up for primary care, if not for dealing with intensive cases of a coronavirus. So right from the beginning, we knew this was going to be a problem. Jon, since July of last year, hospitalizations, COVID cases themselves and mortality have all been much higher in rural America than urban. And in fact, in January and the end of December mortality in rural counties cross US was 48% higher than urban America. In my perspective, this really has been a rural pandemic and it's just such a horrible strain on these small towns all across the US.

 

Jon Doggett:

Now, Alan, that's actually something that we wanted to talk about here, because I think part of the problem stems from that a year ago, when this pandemic was first landing on America's shores, it was unfolding in urban areas. And that disconnect, I think, between rural and urban America really fueled this problem where I think folks in rural areas looked at it and said, oh, that's a city problem. We don't need to worry about that here. Have you noticed that? And how does it impact our efforts to beat this virus?

 

Alan Morgan:

Absolutely. And let's be honest outside on the small towns when people hear the word rural, we all think about the farmers and ranchers out in Western Kansas. And those guys pioneered the concept of social distancing, right? They've got that down. But what we really need to focus in our tells just like Carrie's small communities of two to three stoplights with these communities that are at high risk. And to your point, we saw this. And when that summer surge happened, it really happened in rural America. It happened in communities with, in some cases, processing plants, it happened in communities that had prison populations. It happened in resort areas. One of the worst things that we saw over the last year was people thinking, I need to go to this ski place, this hiking place, this national monument to get away from this. And they basically seeded the community with coronavirus as a result of that. It was a huge problem on the front end, getting a hold of this.

 

Jon Doggett:

Let's talk about the vaccine. We got the first vaccine approved in December and two others have been approved since then. And I got my second shot a week ago. That's provided a lot of hope that we might be coming out at the other side of this thing, but boy, there's some hesitancy out there. So Alan, we're going to start with you. And then I want to talk to Carrie. But your organization, you obviously have spent a little bit of time looking at what these vaccines are, how they got developed, how they got approved. What's your opinion on the vaccines Alan?

 

Alan Morgan:

Well, we need to be promoting them in a rural context. And it goes back to the uniqueness of rural America. These are tender boxes when it comes to COVID and the best way to address this number one, basic public health measures, wearing a face mask, social distancing. Number two, the vaccine itself. And it's something that from the beginning we've been front and center of arguing that rural communities should be prioritized in this, just because of what we just talked about, the workforce concern. You lose a couple of docs and a few nurses in Cleveland Clinic or DC General Hospital. It's an issue, but it's not a crisis. Carrie loses a couple of physicians at her facility, it's crisis. And because of that, it needs to be prioritized. That's been the concern. I got to be honest with you, Jon, in looking this, there's been a huge pressure among a lot of the States to get as many shots in the arm as quickly as they can.

 

Alan Morgan:

It's a little bit more difficult to get these vaccines out to these small towns. And so it takes extra effort at the state level to make that happen. And that's the key point about this? We always advocate at the national rural health association. You need flexibility to recognize that each rural community is unique. It turns out that in a global pandemic, you really need a federal approach to make sure that these vaccines are distributed in an equitable manner. And that's been a concern for us. It's been a mixed bag today about getting these vaccines out to the rural communities.

 

Jon Doggett:

Carrie, what are people saying about the vaccines in your community and how are you addressing some of the misinformation?

 

Carrie Saia:

Trying to tackle it with facts and information. I believe our community is still probably similar to other rural communities and other communities in general. They are split within beliefs of the vaccine or not, our own organization disappointingly we're just under 70% vaccinated. I wish that was higher. When you ask about my medical providers morale, the day that they were able to line up and get their first dose of vaccines back in December with the Pfizer dosage, they were giddy. It was just like, I couldn't ask for a better shot of morale booster than them being able to receive the vaccine. And I'm proud to say a 100% as soon as they can get it have been vaccinated and received the vaccine. We've been working really close with our local public health and have done some mass vaccinations. We felt like our community would feel more comfortable going out to the 4-H complex and the heritage complex in their vehicles and distributing vaccines.

 

Carrie Saia:

Some said they felt like cattle being run through a shoot. And I'm like, well, it's just getting the vaccine. They get to stay in their car. It was very organized with their 15-minute wait, most waited 20, maybe 25 minutes at most in and out and done. The struggle has been getting the vaccine. And just this week I feel like, gosh, we've got enough vaccine to where we can just open it up. And along with the governor's regulations, we are now able to open it up to anybody 18 and older, and that feels huge. We've been given the Pfizer, the Moderna, and just yesterday, we received our first ship note of the Janssen or the J&J vaccine. So we have a wide plethora for people to choose from and are so excited to now just open it up to anyone.

 

Dusty Weis:

Talk about those brand names for a second, Carrie, because you hear about this a lot in the news or from the people that have gotten their shots. We're Pfizer family, we got the Moderna. Is there really any reason for people to get picky about which shot they get? Is any vaccine really better or worse than any other at this point?

 

Carrie Saia:

Any vaccine is better than the coronavirus or COVID-19 virus. Any vaccine is better. And any vaccine that you can get and help increase the number of people in our community that are vaccinated, with the new regulations that come out, you can get together in your home now without mask and with vaccinated people start that socially norm again. That part is exciting. And I don't know that everyone understands the importance of that and feeling safe.

 

Jon Doggett:

Alan Morgan, the CEO of the National Rural Health Association, you've been pushing for equitable distribution of the vaccine in rural areas. You want to give a grade?

 

Alan Morgan:

It's tough because honestly it is all over the board and you've heard the success that Carrie has had today with getting the vaccine out to her community. I've heard stories such as that. I've heard stories where take, for example, Boulevard, Tennessee. We have a rural hospital there that has 85% of its staff vaccinated. And currently, they're undergoing efforts to be able to reach out to the African-American population in their small town to make sure that they actually are vaccinated as well. And so you've got good examples of that, where it's working and you've got the outreach, the hard-hit members of the community.

 

Alan Morgan:

But for every story like that, I've got a rural hospital in Pennsylvania that received only one shipment at the beginning of this, for their staff. They haven't seen anything since then. That story has been repeated in Alabama and Texas and in other states as well, too. And as you've mentioned also, it's not just getting the vaccine out. It's being able to get people to sign up, to get transportation to those vaccination places. And then what we said, we've got the hesitancy on top of that. And the data has shown, let's be honest in a rural context, there is a much larger percentage of the population that's hesitant to take the vaccine.

 

Jon Doggett:

So Carrie, all of the folks in your hospital got the shot. And I think if that doesn't say something to people, I don't know what would, but in light of that, what about the hesitancy to get the vaccine now? You're seeing it in Holton. What are some of the things you've done to counter some of those concerns and meeting people where they're at?

 

Carrie Saia:

Just to correction. A 100% of my medical providers have received the vaccine. I do not have a hundred percent of my staff. We've tried to be patient, tried to show the benefits of the vaccine. Educate, help them understand that it's not just protecting themselves. It's protecting the loved ones that they may be around and how they can spread the virus to others if they don't get the vaccine. And maybe they aren't going to have complications from the exposure to the virus and becoming positive with the virus. I wish I had a crystal ball. I think any medical provider, any person in this universe would love a crystal ball that shows what the impact of COVID-19 is going to be on themselves, around someone else. You can't predict if it's going to hit you tough or someone else tough, you can take the choice of making sure you're doing your role by being as safe as you can, because we know that COVID-19 is a very serious illness.

 

Carrie Saia:

We know that it's not the flu. We know that it causes death, death in numbers that we have not seen in years. And we know that we can transmit it and share it to other ones, our loved ones, and cause our loved ones to become sick. We need to take this additional step of getting the vaccine, still leading that healthy lifestyle. Our flu numbers have just plummeted. They just are non-existent this year. Why is that? Because people are washing their hands more. They're wearing a mask more. What are we going to know five years from now about this virus? We're learning stuff every day. And so we're trying to take the approach of educating. We're not forcing, we're not mandating that as part of our employment I would love to, but we're not because we want people to understand and feel comfortable, but know that that is a very key point in making the turn on this virus.

 

Dusty Weis:

I've always looked at it from the perspective that if the guy that works on my truck tells me that he got some work done to the brakes because it was going to make his truck safer. I would go out and I would get that same work done to my brakes on my truck. Why is it then do you think that people look at something like their doctor and say, oh, well my doctor got this shot. I don't want that shot.

 

Carrie Saia:

I think it's the different sources of information that they're listening to right now. There are so many different sources that people can go to maybe to feed in what they want to hear versus taking the time to listen and listen to a trusted source.

 

Jon Doggett:

Alan Morgan, you're running a national organization. You have all of these members out there like Carrie and others across the country. What tools have you been able to provide to your members to help them with this conversation in their local community?

 

Alan Morgan:

I think we're seeing a shift right now and your organization is part of this, of recognizing in a rural context, you really need trusted resources within the community to be able to share this message. In a rural context, movie stars and politicians just are never going to hold any sway whatsoever. And so the push needs to be towards having trusted resources within that community. And I want to go a step further to say, Jon, your organization and your members are better positioned to really make this case for two reasons. One, you understand how science plays a role with an agriculture and you understand the relevance and the importance of it. And you need to follow the science, number one. Number two, all my, you certainly understand the concept of federal bureaucracy and burdensome regulations. For the last 20 years in the medical community we've been arguing it's not necessary to spend 10 to 20 years for approval of new drugs and devices.

 

Alan Morgan:

That's ridiculous. And we've listened to federal bureaucrats say, no, no, no it's necessary. Well, the problem is now we've got a pandemic and we've been able to show the science that these vaccines are safe. And we've been able to do that in under a year, which is what we've always said. Follow the science, but now federal bureaucrats are saying, oh no, no, it's okay. And there's a trust problem here, but your members are positioned to be able to say, trust the science. And there is a coherent reason of why this vaccine is safe and effective at this time.

 

Dusty Weis:

You know, Alan, sometimes I find that the best way to calm somebody's fears or mistrust about the boogeyman is to pull open in the closet door and show them that there's no boogeyman in there. So how about it here? Can we bust some COVID vaccine myths? What's one myth that you've heard about the vaccine and what's the truth to that myth?.

 

Alan Morgan:

Wow, I'm sure Carrie actually on the front end is heard of lot of these, and I think I would argue they fall into two categories, the ridiculous, and then the ones that seem to have some basis, but can be busted. And in the ridiculous category, I would say, I don't want to take the vaccine because it's going to give me COVID. Obviously that's not the case, it's never been the case and that's easily busted, but we hear that a lot. And then there's the ones, there have been limited examples, extremely limited examples of blood clotting among the latest iteration of the vaccine.

 

Alan Morgan:

The important thing I think you have to keep going back is what you opened with. There literally have been millions of people that have been vaccinated today and on these cases that are so unusual, they make headline news because they are unusual. And I think just that concept of how unusual an adverse outcome would be under such a situation should help alleviate that the odds are tremendously in the favor that you will have no adverse outcome as a result of this.

 

Jon Doggett:

You know, there were no headlines in the Washington Post last week that said, Jon Doggett of Woodbridge, Virginia got a second shot and everything turned out hunky-dory.

 

Dusty Weis:

Carrie, what about you? What's a myth that you've heard and what's the real truth to it?

 

Carrie Saia:

I have had challenges with our younger staff be more hesitant and it's more along the lines of the potential nurse or patient that wants to have a family. And so what we've done is I have a pregnant daughter-in-law and I've asked her OB, why don't you go and talk to your OB doctor and ask them, what do you recommend me getting my vaccine or not? And she actually has, and he recommended getting it just like I recommend you getting the flu shot because you getting the COVID virus as a person while you're pregnant is worse than the potential, any complications of the COVID vaccine. Now there have not been a lot of trials on that, but when you look at the millions, as Alan talked about. The millions that have gone and received it, there are very, very, very few that have had any complications.

 

Dusty Weis:

Jon, what about you? What's a myth that you've heard?

 

Jon Doggett:

I get a flu shot every year, but I'm not going to get a COVID shot because they only just recently developed it. Well, as I understand it, every flu vaccine is an annual event. I mean, they develop that every year and I get a flu shot every year. So really this isn't that much different, but you would think that we're doing something that's completely out of the ordinary. We're doing what we've always done. This is how we beat measles and tuberculosis and polio. You name it. We've beat back all this stuff by putting a needle in somebody's arm and giving them a vaccine. It's not that complicated, but somehow we've decided we're going to make it complicated.

 

Jon Doggett:

We make it political. And when the Lord came along and said, I'm going to take you and you and you, because you had COVID, he didn't say who's a Republican and who's a Democrat, and who lives in rural American, and who lives in an urban city. This all of us together and this is kind of us fighting back something. And we've done that before with other things, we ought to be able to do it with this. But that said, I'm optimistic. I really am. And I'm more optimistic now than I was say, six weeks ago. Of course, I got the vaccine. And that makes a big difference. But looking at this, what makes you optimistic that we're going to meet the goal to defeat the pandemic? And what is the most important thing that you think people ought to do right now today that are listening to this podcast? Carrie going to start with you.

 

Carrie Saia:

You touched on a couple of points and at the height of our influx of hospitalized patients and really worried about if we had one more patient come into our ER that was COVID positive and needed a bed. We didn't know where we were going to put them. And we didn't know that we would be able to transfer them out. And I pleaded with an interviewer at the time, this is not a political virus. There's nothing political about wearing a mask. Nobody wants to wear a mask. Nobody likes to wear a mask. We weren't born with masks. We just need to do it. This is another plea. We just need to get the vaccine. I feel hopeful because I've seen the joy in people's eyes, our farmers, my dad was a farmer. I helped him get vaccines on our farm. He would have been first in line to receive the vaccine.

 

Carrie Saia:

Farmers work in a unique environment because for the most part, day in and day out, they're by themselves. They're out on their tractors, they're out working with their cattle, but they do go to church. They do go into the co-op. They do go into the grocery store. They do go to weddings. They do go to events that they need to be safe and feel safe of not spreading the virus. That's my plea to please just get vaccinated, take your first opportunity to do it, but we want to give it to anyone. And we want our communities to get back on the road to where we want to be.

 

Jon Doggett:

Allen, what makes you optimistic? And what's the thing you think people ought to be doing today?

 

Alan Morgan:

Well, I'm optimistic, but I do have concerns. The optimism comes from the fact that over the last three weeks, finally, finally, for the first time, since last July numbers of COVID cases, hospitalizations and mortality in rural counties are all finally lower than urban counties. Now we haven't seen this for months. And so that obviously gives reason for great optimism, but my concern is, and I think you've seen in the news that the cases are beginning an uptick again, the data I got from the CDC this morning is a 15% increase in urban counties over the past week alone. And so we're not out of the woods.

 

Alan Morgan:

And why is that happening? Because of these new variants that we're now seeing that are much more transmissible and the leading science indicates that they're more problematic from a hospitalization standpoint. And this is impacting the younger community because a huge percentage of the elderly have been vaccinated. The rural COVID cases are down. That's great. The elderly population has been vaccinated for the most part. That is great. But we're simply not out of the woods. And we've just got to really come together as the nation and particular from a rural perspective, to make sure we get these shots in the arms as quickly as we can to keep our rural towns safe.

 

Jon Doggett:

I told one of our state execs yesterday, I'm more worried about the next six weeks than I have been the previous six weeks because everybody says, well, the numbers are down and I got my first shot or everybody else in the family got a shot. I don't need to get a shot. Or I got one, I'll try to remember to get the second one. That's where I get afraid is because we're letting our guard down.

 

Alan Morgan:

Absolutely, absolutely. And I want to highlight again, back in December and January, this virus was circulating among the population that was eating inside restaurants without masks, and they were doing all the wrong things. And now it's actually circulating among a lot of us that have been taking good measures to date because it just has become more virulent when we're trying to deal with it. It's actually become much better at bypassing some of our safety measures. So to your point, this is a particularly dangerous time for the next month.

 

Jon Doggett:

And the people are tired of wearing masks.

 

Dusty Weis:

My wife slapped me on the nose the other week because I went out, I got my first shot and I'm like, hey, why don't we just cheat a little bit? Why don't we go out for dinner? And she's like, you're a runner, dusty. Would you run 23 miles of a marathon? And then stop? No, just finish the darn race. Just get there, get your shot. Otherwise, this whole year has been for nothing and she was right. I took my slap on the nose with grace and dignity.

 

Jon Doggett:

Yeah. Well, we can wear masks a little bit longer when Fiona Walker and May Walker ages seven and five put on their mask without their mom telling them to every morning. Yes. They go off to school. And so my daughter said, I don't know what's going to happen with these girls when I can tell them you don't have to wear the mask anymore because it's just automatic. Put the mask on you, get behind your little partition in your desk. You give a little space. What a great thing to have is to teach your children that they don't have to have masks anymore. I'm looking forward to that day. Is there anything else we want to talk about guys? Anything you feel that we've not hit, that you want to, or anything that we need to emphasize more.

 

Carrie Saia:

Just know that we have a lot of work to still do and grow and appreciate your organization taking the time to publicize this very, very important information. And I hope that if someone has questions about vaccines, that they'll reach out to their local provider and who they trust to help them talk through what are the risks? What are the benefits? What do they recommend?

 

Alan Morgan:

You know, Jon. Carrie raises a good point. I want to go back because this ties into something that she had mentioned earlier in this broadcast. And that is the impact this has had on our rural hospital and on the workforce of it. And this workforce issue is going to be facing us for the decade to come. I mean, it really has crushed the safety net when it comes to staffing at these rural hospitals. And from a community standpoint, these small towns need to recognize how valuable having these points of care are.

 

Alan Morgan:

Having 24 seven emergency room service in Holton Kansas allows the seniors to stay in that community. And if we could just view this from a perspective of how do we help our small town thrive and survive and continue to exist and to do that, we have to make sure that we're taking this seriously. We're getting vaccinated for no other reason to make sure that we keep that local health care access point there. And it really is going to be an issue for us as we move forward, making sure that we can keep the doctors, the nurses, the 24/7 emergency room service that is absolutely necessary in these small towns.

 

Jon Doggett:

Well, growing up on a ranch, 22 miles outside of a County seat of a thousand people with a hospital with four beds, you never really thought much about the hospital until you had somebody that you were hauling into town that had a heart attack or somebody, we had a guy lose part of his hand. All of a sudden that becomes really important to have that hospital. When my dad was in his final days of fighting cancer, that rural community rallied around him around that hospital. That was the focal point. Had that not been there, he would've spent his final couple of weeks in a hospital, a hundred miles away with people that didn't know him, everybody in that hospital knew who he was because we all grew up together. And that's why it's important to have those rural hospitals. And it's why I wanted to have this conversation with the two of you.

 

Jon Doggett:

We didn't go to Georgetown Medical School to get somebody to appear on this. And we didn't go to somebody at Mount Sinai Hospital to be on this podcast. We wanted to get folks that understood and talked to the folks that we're talking to, folks in rural America, farmers and ranchers, and people in rural communities. Because if you think back to that time, when dad had the heart attack and you needed to get him to town and get him to the hospital, the importance of having that hospital there, that importance of having a staff that was well-educated well-trained and well-resourced to go ahead and deal with those things.

 

Jon Doggett:

That's the other part of this. And thank you, Alan, for bringing that up because that's part of this pandemic is how are we going to be able to get to the other side of this with all of those resources still available? Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association and Carrie Saia, CEO of Holton Community Hospital. Thanks so much for joining us on the NCGA podcast. And I'm Jon Doggett. I am the CEO of the National Corn Growers Association. Thank you so much for listening and tune in again soon for another episode of Wherever Jon May Roam the NCGA podcast.

 

Dusty Weis:

That is going to wrap up this edition of Wherever Jon May Roam, the National Corn Growers Association podcast. New episodes arrive monthly. So make sure you subscribe on your favorite app and join us again soon. Visit ncga.com to learn more or sign up for the associations email newsletter. Wherever Jon May Roam is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association and produced by Podcamp Media branded podcast production for businesses. Visit podcampmedia.com. Editing by Larry Kilgore III. For the National Corn Growers Association. Thanks for listening. I'm Dusty Weis.

 

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