Dear Team:

With the end of the year, and the end of a decade, here are best wishes for a great year ahead. At the dawn of 2020, and at the beginning of the 2020’s, let’s all pause and be grateful for who we are, and even more who we are becoming. I wish continuous growth and fulfillment for each of us at Community Healthcare Network.

OK, I will keep this short today.  Call it my annual nag.

As we all know, the New York Health Commissioner has declared flu to be “prevalent” across the state.  Concretely, for CHN, that means each employee who has not been vaccinated this year against the flu must wear a surgical or procedure mask while in areas where patients are typically present. It is to protect our patients from us!

That is the law, and our minimal responsibility. Our true obligation to get vaccinated is much stricter. First, by reducing our risk of contracting the flu, we keep ourselves healthy. More, we reduce the risk of spreading the flu virus to our family, friends, colleagues, and even passers-by.

For many otherwise healthy people, flu is a miserable week of sickness. For high risk people, that includes older people, babies, and others with compromised immune systems, it can be fatal. In recent years between 50,000 and 80,000 Americans died annually from the flu. Who wants to be the person who, for lack of a vaccination, infected others?

At CHN we make it easy to be vaccinated. In October, an unnamed leader of our nurses gleefully stuck me with the not at all painful needle. But as of year’s, end, of the 800 or so CHN employees, just under 500 have been vaccinated. Bravo to the elite 500, and everyone else: let’s get on it. Please.

I am the lawyer, not the clinician. But I am emphatically told by people far better informed than I that people who believe they have medical reasons for not being vaccinated are almost always wrong. Talk with one of our providers if you think you have a medical reason to avoid the flu vaccine. They will give it to you straight.

Sure, the vaccine will not protect against all strains of virus, but it absolutely reduces the risk of contracting and transmitting the flu. It also tends to lower symptoms should you be infected.

One last pitch: we at CHN are in the business of evidence-based public health. We devote much energy to educating our communities on how to stay healthy. Educating on the importance of vaccinations is among the most important lessons we teach.

When patient facing staff are required by law to wear protective masks in the presence to patients, we send exactly the wrong message to our communities. For our own good, and for the good of our families, co-workers, and patients, let’s all get the flu vaccine.

That will lead to a better chance of both a Happy and Healthy New Year.

Welcome 2020!