COMMENTARY: We’re In This Together, So Please Wear A Mask

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We are in this together. It doesn’t matter your political affiliation, what you do for a living, for whom you work, where you live, or how much money you have. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all fighting the same battle—to protect one another and ourselves from a virus for which there is currently no vaccine and no cure. The best possible weapons in stopping this invisible threat are simple steps we can all take.

Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Maintain social distancing.

By wearing a mask, you significantly reduce the risk of spreading the disease if you have it–with or without symptoms–and of contracting this disease which continues to put our loved ones, friends, neighbors and coworkers in hospitals, on respirators and in graves.

In Virginia, we are seeing success, which is one of the reasons we have been able to progress to Phase 3, and why our infection and death rates have remained stable. Still, we are not out of the woods, and continued vigilance will make all the difference.

Science has proven that masks are effective in slowing the transmission of the virus. In communities where mask adoption has been mandated or voluntarily embraced, statistics show a reduction in infection and death.

Recent studies in Health Affairs, The Lancet, and medical journals compared the COVID-19 growth rate before and after mask mandates in various states. These prove that mask mandates led to a slowdown in the daily COVID-19 growth rate over time. Health Affairs data suggested the first five days after a mandate, the daily growth rate slowed by 0.9 percent compared to the five days prior to the mandate, and at three weeks, the daily growth rate had slowed by 2 percent. Internationally, countries that have embraced wearing masks or mandated them have had a significantly lower death rate due to COVID-19.

The risks this virus poses to all of us still loom large. As we are seeing in other parts of the country, a surge is inevitable when we let our guard down and stop wearing masks in both indoor and outdoor spaces where we will encounter others. We must remain vigilant, because wearing masks, washing hands, and social distancing are working.

That’s why we are here. As the physician leaders of the major health care organizations in southwest Virginia, and on behalf of the thousands of doctors, nurses, advanced care professionals and employees throughout our health systems, we are in this together. But clearly, we can’t do it alone.

Please help us to keep our communities safe and reduce the scenes of misery, pain and loss of life we see in our facilities each day due to this awful virus.

Save a life. Wear a mask. Wash your hands regularly. Keep your distance when you must be near others. Together we will overcome this challenge.

Frank Cannizzo, M.B.A, M.D., Ph.D., FACS
Chief of Staff
Salem VA Health Care System

Carnell Cooper, M.D., FACS
Chief Medical Officer
LewisGale Regional Health System

Patrice M. Weiss, M.D., FACOG
Chief Medical Officer
Carilion Clinic