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Orthopedic Surgeon, Mayor Team Up on COVID-19 Response

What your doctor is reading on Medscape.com:

APRIL 30, 2020 — In the heart of California’s Central Valley, the city of Atwater is shielding itself from the coronavirus pandemic.

Atwater is located on State Route 99 in Merced County, about a 2-hour drive to the Bay Area and the state capitol of Sacramento. On March 9, even though no one in the town of 30,000 had yet been diagnosed with COVID-19, Mayor Paul Creighton declared a state of emergency.

The mayor said he felt moved to act after watching YouTube videos about the pandemic, including scenes of incinerators set up to cremate human remains in Wuhan, China, where the virus originated.

“I thought that for China to be doing that, this is way bigger than the city of Atwater is ready for,” Creighton told Medscape Medical News.

The state of emergency allowed Creighton to create the position of medical advisor, to which he appointed Edward Vanek, DO, an orthopedic surgeon.

“I’m really looking to establish plans with the city,” Vanek told local reporters when the emergency was declared. It will be more of a thought process, as opposed to moving any money around, he explained.

The doctor emphasized the need to protect the city’s first responders, who often find themselves in situations where they are at increased risk for exposure. A single infection involving a police officer could quickly spread through an entire department and place the community at risk, he noted.

In his private practice in Atwater, Vanek treats and restores function to injured knees, shoulders, and hips, and this isn’t the first time he has advocated for first responders.

Protecting First Responders

He gained notoriety in the growing town — the motto of which is Community Pride, City Wide — and was befriended by the mayor when he treated police officers injured on duty.

“Dr Vanek does charitable medical work for people who can’t afford help,” Creighton explained.

Vanek is also known in the area for donating to the town’s fall festival and helping fund Fourth of July fireworks. His children are young and his penchant for exotic sports cars has made him a favorite of other kids in the community, who often ask for rides in his flashy McLaren 720S.

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