Face Mask Editorial: Critical Moment in Battle Against COVID-19
June 17 - Wael K. Barsoum, MD | CEO and President, Cleveland Clinic Florida
Florida is facing a critical moment in its battle against COVID-19
The number of new COVID-19 cases has increased steadily since the beginning of June and reached a single-day high on June 16 with 2,783 new cases. While hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID-19 have been relatively stable across Florida, in some areas of the state – including Martin and St. Lucie counties – hospitalizations have gone up. And increasingly, there are more young people being diagnosed with the virus than had been previously.
There are a number of factors that have likely contributed to those trends. Florida is continuing to test individuals for the virus at a steady rate – including vulnerable populations such as residents of nursing homes. Also, the criteria for who qualifies for testing has expanded greatly, in many cases including people who are asymptomatic, which can account for some changes in the demographics of those being diagnosed positive.
Unfortunately, as more areas of the state are opened up we are also seeing individuals disregarding the basic tenets of COVID-19 prevention: wearing a mask in public, social distancing, avoiding crowds of people and frequent handwashing.
The importance of wearing a mask when around others cannot be overstated. While wearing a cloth mask may not prevent you from getting COVID-19, it has been demonstrated to protect wearers from possibly spreading the virus to others. The more people who wear masks and take the other proper precautions, the more protection we can collectively provide.
As we continue to see businesses open up and restrictions are relaxed, wearing masks can play a pivotal role in helping mitigate that spread – especially from those individuals who may be asymptomatic carriers of the virus.
That is why we have made it a policy across Cleveland Clinic that all of our caregivers, regardless of where they work, must wear a mask. All visitors who come to our facilities must also wear a mask. Our primary focus is on the safety of our patients, caregivers and visitors and by having masks be part of our daily routine we are making our hospitals and clinics a safe place to receive care.
COVID-19 remains a public health issue. If we are to beat this disease, we need to work together. By protecting each other through mask wearing, we can minimize the risks and the rate of transmission of this disease.
All of us want to see our economy reopen fully, to be able to go to restaurants, sporting events and shopping centers and not be concerned that we might later be diagnosed with COVID-19. For that to happen, we need to be thoughtful. We need to be cautious and continue to do the things that helped us flatten the curve originally.
We need to maintain social distancing. We need to wear a mask in public. We need to observe frequent, thorough handwashing. Now is the time to take action to ensure the health of our communities and an opportunity for strong economic recovery.