Public health nurse first to test Solano residents from TravisBy Todd R. Hansen, Daily Republic, March 29, 2020
FAIRFIELD — Rodney Butterfield was not new to infectious diseases.
“As nurses, you frequently enter a space where a patient has an infectious disease,” said Butterfield, a 14-year veteran in the nursing profession, the past two as a registered nurse in the Solano County Public Health division. “But this was a little different.”
He volunteered to help test and track the health progress of four Solano County residents at their homes: three who had been released into Public Health care from Travis Air Force Base and one who is believed to have contracted the Covid-19 disease through a community contact.
Butterfield said the coronavirus was new to everyone – medical professionals and members of the public alike. There was very little information about it, and not all the information was correct, or it was changing so rapidly that even the medical profession struggled to keep up.
He said even today physicians are calling the Public Health office to make sense of the sometimes conflicting information, and there are frequent updates on how the virus can be transmitted.
The primary way, however, remains person-to-person, so health officials continue to emphasize the need to wash hands, keep a healthy distance from other people and to keep your environments clean and sanitized.
Even worse at the beginning, Butterfield noted, everyone who seemed to be getting Covid-19 were dying, if the scattered media reports were to be believed.
“So, yeah, it was a little scary because everything I’ve dealt with in the past was known,” Butterfield said. “It put you on a red alert to be cautious with all you did.”
But as cautious as the situation made Butterfield, he said his clients were truly scared.
“They were frightened. . . . At the time, they didn’t know anything about (the novel coronavirus). We didn’t know anything about it,” Butterfield said.
To make matters worse, and the isolation even more severe, neighbors were also uncertain and did not necessarily react with a sense of understanding or kindness.
“I don’t know what the neighbors said, but my clients felt ostracized,” Butterfield said.
“The question that was most penetrating for us was, ‘What is going to happen to us?’ ” Butterfield said of his clients’ concerns.
It was a question that had far-reaching effects, from the immediacy of their health to their families to what the future would be like for them.
Butterfield, who was a construction contractor in Utah in his first life and started his second career as a licensed vocational nurse in correctional facilities, said his four clients have recovered, and he has talked to two of them since.
“They were just thrilled that they were past this thing,” Butterfield said. “I think what they were thankful for the most was I was giving them the most updated information available.”
Butterfield has now returned to his normal duties, though he still fields calls about the new coronavirus. Many are from individuals who are concerned for their health because the companies they work for have not shut down or made any attempt to adhere to social guidelines.
Butterfield said the experience has made him wonder if he should have gone into research, because it will be researchers who find the ultimate cure.
“I just hope next year we will all be getting vaccinated for this,” Butterfield said.
Most people who have the new coronavirus experience only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. Some people, especially older adults and those with underlying health problems, experience more severe illness such as pneumonia, or death.
The vast majority of people recover. The World Health Organization reports people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.