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Coronavirus hit home early in the crisis for Placer Community Foundation fundholders Dr. Jay and Kathy Griffiths. In the second week of March, the Griffiths received news that a close friend and long-time client of the veterinary hospital where Dr. Griffiths is medical director passed away from COVID-19.

By the first week of April, the virus made an even more personal appearance in the Griffiths life.  Three employees at Jay’s veterinary hospital tested positive for the virus. By nature of their work and professional training, Dr. Griffiths and his team were prepared for a potential outbreak. They knew that their routine safety and sanitation protocols would help mitigate their risk, but caring for animals at the vet hospital requires teams to work in close proximity to each other. Six feet of physical distancing is not possible for staff while performing essential veterinary procedures.

Upon learning about the outbreak, the first concern was for the health and safety of the hospital’s 40 employees and their families. The facility was swiftly closed and testing was facilitated for all staff. Dr. Griffiths took his exposure very seriously as well. With Kathy and his 85-year-old father-in-law at home, Jay immediately self-quarantined, staying in a hotel for two weeks even after receiving a negative test.

Dr. Griffiths care and leadership for his team was not contained during his isolation. From his hotel room, he kept in close contact with his employees. While the hospital closed down for distancing and extensive rounds of cleaning, Dr. Griffiths focused on the health of virus-stricken co-workers and the emotional wellbeing of their family members. “Being in this field makes us more accustomed to managing anxiety and the risk of disease,” he said. “For impacted family members, it was understandable that they were experiencing additional stress and worry in this situation.”

Back at home, Kathy Griffiths was also focused on supporting those who were affected by the virus. She saw the severe shortage of face masks for staff members returning to work and quickly ramped-up an at-home mask-making effort. In a matter of days, she had produced an ample supply quilted masks for veterinary hospital staff to use. After a few weeks, Kathy had produced hundreds of masks to donate to Sutter Health and other organizations in need.

Whether by luck or design, no other employees or family members tested positive for COVID-19 or developed symptoms after the initial outbreak. Jay believes luck had little to do with it. “Prevention and mitigation measures worked,” said Jay. The vet hospital’s stringent protocols and procedures for cleanliness, along with their personal commitments to following public health practices helped protect himself and others from contracting the virus.

As of early June, team spirit and morale is high at Dr. Griffiths’ home and veterinary hospital. At last count, Kathy had produced and delivered 583 masks across the community. At the vet hospital, all three employees have recovered from COVID-19 and returned to work. The Griffiths believe this experience is a lesson in taking the virus’s presence seriously and following public health measures such as distancing, wearing face coverings and regularly washing hands. Reflecting on what they went through, the Griffiths see what an important role personal protection measures play in this new era. For Jay and Kathy, “our experience shows that these new habits are essential for living safely.”

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