As the coronavirus continues to spread throughout New Hampshire, communities are shutting down and people are isolated as they practice social distancing.
But in Tamworth, a group of nurses is working to keep their community connected through this pandemic.
NHPR's Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with Jo Anne Rainville, the executive director of the Tamworth Community Nurse Association, which provides free medical care and counseling to people in town.
(Editor's note: this transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.)
Rick Ganley: I know the nurse association in Tamworth typically operates out of the town hall, but the town hall is closed right now. So where are you treating your patients?
Jo Anne Rainville: Well, I'm sitting in our office in the back of town hall. The people that we can treat like for simple blood work, etc., then we go right out to their car and and draw the blood work.
Rick Ganley: So you're doing it right in the car?
Jo Anne Rainville: Right in the car. I took out sutures in a car yesterday. That's the first time I've ever done that. But then other people that I'm dressing changes, or need meds poured, or many of the myriad of services that we offer, we're going out to see them.
We are trying not to go and be affected by the [coronavirus]. Those people are largely being kept in their homes. We keep track of them. We've gotten a group of volunteers that will help with meal preparation, drop it off to him, grocery shopping, those kinds of support systems.
Rick Ganley: Have you had any patients that you've recommended to, you know, go to the hospital or go see a specialist at all?
Rick Ganley: We have had patients that we have recommended to contact first their primary care provider, and then they get instructions from that point forward.
Rick Ganley: But you have seen some of those that you suspect may may have been infected with the virus?
Jo Anne Rainville: Yes.
Rick Ganley: Are you concerned at all about possibly catching the virus yourself? I mean, obviously, you're still in contact with some patients before maybe they know they're sick.
Jo Anne Rainville: Well, you know, I think we have to look at this as practically as we can. I could be in the line at the bank and get exposed to COVID-19. It's using common sense. It's not trying to let this thing put fear into us that will stop us from doing our mission.
Also, as soon as we've heard about the coronavirus, I ordered a very large amount of hand sanitizer. So at town meeting we were there giving out his sanitizers and newsworthy information about what you do if you think you might have this. So we're managing to keep ourselves pretty busy over here.
Rick Ganley: Yeah, well sanitizer is the commodity of the day, I guess.
Jo Anne Rainville: I guess it is.
Rick Ganley: Yeah, so Joanne, how are you trying to keep your patients safe as far as not transmitting it back and forth, whether you know, inadvertently from a nurse to to a patient or, you know, vice versa?
Jo Anne Rainville: Well, we always practice best practices. So we'll wear our gloves and masks in situations where we feel that it's necessary, and we're trying to keep our staff healthy. And again, passing out the hand sanitizes, giving them reading material as what to watch for, those are the steps that we're taking.
Rick Ganley: Joanne, what are you hearing from your neighbors? You know, people in the community about maybe being isolated, having to stay in their homes. How is it affecting them?
Jo Anne Rainville: Well, people are scared, and that's very, very obvious. And there's some people being overwhelmed with this. We started here in Tamworth telephone trees in our different villages and neighborhoods. So that we've got one neighbor calling three people and checking in, and then those three people calling some more. So that we could keep in touch with people that are in their homes, give them a chance to have some social conversation, listen to them. And if one of those callers find somebody who's not feeling very well, they turn around and call us back and out we go.
Rick Ganley: Good source of information if you needed it to keep in touch with people.
Jo Anne Rainville: It is. Yeah, it is. Because we can't possibly make all those calls ourselves. So the community has really pitched in to help us.
Rick Ganley: What about some ways that you're planning to bring people together in the confines of social distancing, but getting people out and about?
Jo Anne Rainville: Well, we're setting some groups for walking. Just going out. We're fortunate enough to have the [Remick Country Doctor Museum & Farm] and their trails right here in downtown Tamworth, along with the fact that we've got lots of lovely back roads to walk on. So people might have to be spread out a little bit. But just getting out in the sunshine with a spring here. I'm hoping the weather will change and more people will get outside, because I think it lifts your spirits as well as being good for you.
Rick Ganley: And that's a good point. Be outside, because there's no there's no reason that you have to be stuck inside. Just, obviously practice those keep your distance kind of guidelines.
Jo Anne Rainville: Absolutely. And even if you are unfortunate enough to have the cold virus, that doesn't mean you can't get out and walk around your yard, and sit on your porch and enjoy some sunshine, you know? You don't want to come into contact with other people, but by all means, get out of the house.