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Beating COVID-19 is a team effort — our masks are our jerseys

More than 130,000 lives have been lost in the United States as a result of COVID-19. In Pennsylvania we’ have had more than 96,000 people contract COVID-19. Tragically, close to 7,000 have died.

We’ve watched Pennsylvania’s case count begin to rise once again — enough so that we are now facing renewed restrictions for some environments like restaurants, gyms, nightclubs and others. It’s a sobering reminder that COVID-19 is still here, it’s real, and it doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. Early efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus may have stemmed the initial tide, but with cases on the upswing, we must be vigilant to prevent a resurgence of infections.

Precautionary efforts are more important now than ever before, the easiest and most effective of which is simply wearing a mask when you are in public — indoors as well as even outdoors if you are around others. It’ll take all of us working together to dampen the virus’ activity in our communities overall — we are all on the same team and our “jersey” is the mask we wear. Among the arrows in our quiver in the battle against the virus, it remains one of the most impactful ways to keep our friends, families, and neighbors from becoming the next statistic of COVID-19.

It may take some getting used to, but what we have learned about the coronavirus so far is that when we all mask, the risk of spreading it is greatly reduced. Part of what makes this virus difficult to contain is that it can spread even when folks don’t show any symptoms, but wearing a mask can limit this type of spread.

At Geisinger, we continue to do everything we can to be good champions of masking, continuing to communicate and reinforce the proper way to wear a mask and educating our communities about the benefits of masking. For months, masking has been mandatory for all of our employees, patients and visitors. To help our own staff with this, we mailed tens of thousands of masks to our employees for their use at work and in their personal lives. By continuing to mask as a team, along with the other precautionary steps we have taken (such as updated visitation policies, universal screening upon entry, fostering distancing and separation in our hospitals and clinics, etc.), we know that we are maintaining a safe environment for care. We encourage you to visit Geisinger.org/coronavirus for the latest information about what to expect when coming to Geisinger for an appointment or accompanying a loved one.

We’re also working with local businesses, schools, universities and others to educate about masking, screening and other preventive measures. Through such partnerships, we’ve been able to distribute materials and get the word out across the community to keep us all safer.

If we are going to spare Pennsylvania the fates we are seeing play out in so many other states across the country, it is important for us to remember that we will be dealing with the virus for the foreseeable future. As such, the best way we can protect each other is to wear a mask. Our whole team, all of you and all of us, will collectively benefit if we do this together for our families, our communities and our country.

Dr. Jaewon Ryu is president and CEO of Geisinger.

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