Police, fire department, health care stand in unity

Doctors from Axtell Clinic in Newton, Newton Fire/EMS and Newton police stand in unity in the fight against COVID-19. Wendy Nugent/Newton Now

By Wendy Nugent, Newton Now

Health workers from Axtell Clinic, as well as the Newton Fire/EMS Department and Newton Police Department, gathered on the sparsely populated Newton Medical Center complex parking on Saturday to have their photos taken as a group—a group showing solidarity in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The photo now is on the local fire/EMS department’s facebook page with the following telling the public they want people to take precautions:

“While we don’t have a crystal ball and we don’t know what the next several weeks will look like for our community, what we do have are health-care professionals and first responders that go to work everyday to serve our community and keep you safe,” the page stated. “We are asking that you do your part to help keep these folks safe. Please stay home if you can, please take social distancing seriously, practice good hand hygiene, and cough and sneeze etiquette. Together we can flatten the curve for our community.”

Newton Fire/EMS Chief Steve Roberson said the campaign grew out of the off-duty firefighters grocery shopping project (see story in another part of Newton Now this week).

“It was just an idea that Joe [Martin] and I talked about, the idea of getting our health-care partners and emergency responders together to demonstrate unity in the fight against COVID-19,” Roberson said in the almost-empty parking lot.

He said they thought they’d get everyone together to declare they are at work to serve the community and to keep it safe.

“We ask our community to help keep us safe by practicing good hygiene and social distancing,” he said.

He had some recommendations for people to follow during this time.

“I would just say adhere to the CDC and KDHE recommendations—stay six feet apart, groups smaller than 10, sneeze etiquette and cough etiquette,” Roberson said.

One of the doctors standing in solidarity on Saturday was Dr. Brooke Dunlavy with Axtell Clinic.

“We have one chance to alter our future for the better,” Dunlavy said in a note circulating on Facebook. “One chance to save the lives of people we know and love. It doesn’t require extraordinary sacrifice. It only requires we stay home when possible and avoid exposing others. I beg all of you to take social distancing seriously. We only appear to be less affected than Italy because we are 32 days behind them in our infectious course.”

She said the virus has consistently doubled in each country, thus far.

“That means for every person infected 2.5 additional people will become infected as well,” she wrote. “This is a terrifying rate of spread. We do not have enough tests to know how many carriers of the virus there are who may not be showing signs of illness. This is what makes social distancing so critical. Please don’t take this lightly. We only have one chance to stop the pandemic before it takes over. In one to two weeks, we will no longer have the option to contain it.”