On March 13, Dr. George Garrow was driving to his job at Primary Health Network when he heard on the radio the World Health Organization had declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

“My job changed that day,” he said. “Who would have thought this little thing would capture our attention in 2020.”

Garrow, chief medical officer of the Sharon-based group of community health centers, discussed ways to handle the disease caused by the coronavirus in an hour-long webinar, “What Happens When COVID-19 Collides with the Flu,” Thursday hosted by the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce.

He said despite news of a potential vaccine being developed for COVID-19, it won’t be going away going into next year, stating the disease is “an endemic that we have to adapt and deal with as part of our society, referring to 2020 as an “annus horribilis,” or horrible year.

Dr. George Garrow

He told the 25 meeting participants that doing one’s part, including wearing a face mask and practicing social distancing, helps “our entire community get through the pandemic,” adding that wearing masks in particular is a way to protect oneself and others and isn’t a political statement.

“It’s a way to show compassion for others,” Garrow said. “We are in this together and are a family.”

Wearing a face mask properly, he said, isn’t as difficult as wearing a nurse’s or first responder uniform.

With the flu season underway, he said catching it increases the likelihood of getting COVID-19, making it more important to get a flu shot, as he said it “lessens the consequences” of getting the disease.

He outlined ways the disease is being mitigated at Primary Health, including asking employees to self-monitor and report symptoms; having a face mask requirement for staff and patients; limiting the number of people inside facilities, social distancing and setting up a command center as a central source of information and to coordinate the center’s response.

For those who think they have COVID-19, Garrow said the ideal time to get a test is 48 hours after the onset of symptoms. While he said “any test is better than no test,” the ideal one is a PCR test administered by a health care professional, as rapid response tests run the risk of delivering false positive results.

He said testing is now recommended for those who are in close contact with an exposed person even if they don’t have symptoms, adding that downloading the state’s COVID Alert Pa mobile app, which can be downloaded at, helps with contact tracing.

Garrow compared dealing with the pandemic to running a marathon and self-care measures have to be developed to allow the public opportunities to discuss their feelings and take a break when needed. Noting the increased amount of stress and anxiety the pandemic has caused, he said he figuratively “goes back to nature” to cope with the stress.

“When the time seems most dark, I look for joy as it reminds us of the goodness in our world,” Garrow said.

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