On Friday, March 13, 2020, the Kenyan government announced the first COVID-19 infection case in Kenya. This announcement signaled the beginning of special precautionary measures being put in place at CURE Kenya to prevent our patients, staff, and partners from acquiring the virus. The virus affects many things, including Kenyan culture. For example, greetings are very important in Kenya. It is customary for people to shake hands, hug, or do fist bumps every morning before work and in the evening when they part ways to go to their homes. At CURE Kenya, some people enjoy sharing a meal while others spend a lot of time together at their work stations. Because we mostly deal with children, it is also normal to see someone holding a baby every now and then.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the COVID-19 virus is mainly spread from person-to-person who are in close contact with one another or through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and swiftly in affected areas.
The spread of this virus has put everyone at CURE Kenya on high alert. We are used to shaking hands and hugging in the morning when we meet, attending morning devotions in groups, holding patient devotions in the ward, managing huge numbers of patients during clinic days, and even holding babies. All these activities have been stopped or altered as the health of our patients, staff, and partners is of utmost importance.
Now, the way we greet each other in the morning is changing with people waving to each other at a distance or tapping feet. But this isn’t the only thing that is changing. We are meeting in smaller devotion groups (2-3), and we are restructuring how we interact with our patients in order to protect them and ourselves. Previously, nurses and those who are responsible for maintaining cleanliness in the wards wore face masks and gloves only during a procedure or task, like a wound check or emptying the trash cans. Now, everyone is required to wear a mask and gloves to reduce the chances of contracting the virus. In terms of our spiritual ministry team, it is hard to imagine what kind of impact this is going to have on the personal ministry that our pastors engage in with patients.
Each morning, at the CURE Kenya gate, everyone who enters the hospital is screened at a nurse triage station to check for COVID-19 symptoms. In addition, we are sanitizing everyone and reinforcing the need to wash their hands regularly. Seating arrangements have also changed, and everyone is required to sit at least one meter apart. For example, recently we held a staff meeting to discuss contingency plans in the event that the virus affects us at CURE Kenya directly. Staff members sat in a very strategically arranged hall to comply with distancing guidelines and to keep each other safe.
Despite all of this change, we will not back down from serving God through service to our patients. The word of God is helping to guide us through this challenging time. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).
Here is what has NOT changed; Our zeal for sharing the word of God with our patients and bringing healing to them through surgery!