Opinion: 3W’s that can keep you safe from COVID-19

Used face masks are sanitized inside a UV sterilizer so they can be worn again by dentists to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at a clinic in Manila, Philippines on Monday, July 6, 2020. Mask-wearing is seen as critical to flattening the curve of coronavirus infections. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

After four months of battling COVID-19, Georgia’s rising infection rates show that we must step up community efforts to fight this infection and we must all continue to work together.

That’s why the staff at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Emory Healthcare, Grady Health System, Piedmont Healthcare and Wellstar Health System have a simple but important message for all Georgians: Wear a mask.

We urge you to double down and keep doing the proven things that help to minimize risk. We call them the Three W’s: Wear a facemask, Wash your hands and Watch your distance.

Of these actions, wearing a mask can feel the most intrusive, but it dramatically reduces the risks of infecting others and being infected. This is a proven fact, and it is the compassionate thing to do for your friends, family, neighbors and community.

We understand it may take some getting used to. The first time you wear a mask, some may find it uncomfortable or constricting. However, we don’t wear masks for comfort; we wear them to protect our patients, our families, and ourselves. And, wearing a mask can provide the same protection for you. Our medical staff and employees wear masks all day long as they provide life-saving care for patients. You wouldn’t want it any other way. The stakes are now the same for all of us.

We’ve heard the opinions about masks undermining our freedoms. But think of all the things you do every day to keep yourself and those you care about safe. We wear seatbelts and motorcycle helmets. We use car seats for our children. These things are now second nature - a part of the way we live.

We should apply the same thinking to protections from COVID-19 because the risks associated with the virus are far more serious than anything we’ve encountered. Since March, more than 2,800 Georgians have died from COVID-19. For comparison, during the entire seven-month 2019-20 flu season, just 94 Georgians died of the flu. And the number of infections is rising, with more young people getting sick.

Want to protect your personal freedoms to live, work, play and send your children to school without fear of becoming sick? So do we. The best way to do so is to follow the precautions that will allow us to keep our businesses, schools and state open. Public health and the economy don’t have to be at odds. This is not an either-or proposition.

Almost every day someone approaches our staff to thank them for their heroic work caring for COVID-19 patients, and many ask what they can do to help. The answer is simple: Do everything you can to stay healthy and keep those around you healthy. Wear a mask.

Kevin Brown, president and CEO, Piedmont Healthcare. John M. Haupert, president and CEO, Grady Health System. Donna W. Hyland, president and CEO, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Jonathan S. Lewin, M.D., president and CEO, Emory Healthcare. Candice Saunders, President and CEO, Wellstar Health System.

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