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Health systems urge public to mask up

By Anhtai H. Nguyen, Christopher Foley, Amber Egyud, Margaret Baumgarten, Capt. Lisa Mulligan, Mike Dacey & Jordan Asher  

As COVID-19 rates spike in our region, we must unite in our efforts to protect ourselves and one another from a virus for which there is no vaccine and no cure.

At this time, the best possible weapons in stopping this invisible threat are wearing a mask, following social distancing guidelines and washing your hands.

In Hampton Roads, the spike in positive COVID-19 cases is a cause for concern. The Commonwealth of Virginia is holding steady around a 7% positivity rate, while in Hampton Roads, cities are wrestling with positivity rates at or above the state’s average. While it is difficult to pinpoint specific events or sources leading to the latest spikes, we do know that masks are working to lower the percentage of positive cases in other parts of the country.

Peer-reviewed studies in medical journals like The Lancet and Health Affairs have shown that wearing a mask significantly reduces the risk of spreading COVID-19. Results show that mask mandates contributed 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% compared to the five days prior to the mandate, and at three weeks, the daily growth rate had slowed by 2%. Internationally, countries that have embraced or mandated wearing masks have had a significantly lower death rate due to COVID-19.

Here are some guidelines for wearing a mask:

  • Be sure your mask fits properly, extending from the bridge of the nose to the chin, with no gaps along the sides.
  • Wear a mask whenever you visit a public indoor space.
  • Wear a mask when you’re outdoors and unable to maintain a safe social distance of at least 6 feet from other people.
  • Masks with valves do not protect others. The valve allows virus droplets to escape into the air and infect others. Cloth or medical procedure masks are better choices.
  • Most children age 2 and older can wear a mask safely.

As clinical leaders of the major health care systems in Hampton Roads, and on behalf of all of our community’s essential medical workers, including the thousands of doctors, nurses and employees who’ve shown their commitment to our safety, health and well-being throughout our health systems — we urge you to wear a mask to help keep our communities safe and reduce the painful scenes we witness in our facilities each day due to this awful virus.
Save a life and #MaskUp757. Together, we can overcome COVID-19.

Anhtai H. Nguyen, M.D., is chief clinical officer of Bon Secours Hampton Roads. Christopher Foley, M.D., FAAP, is chief of medicine of Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters. Amber Egyud, DNP, RN, NE-BC, is chief of nursing and chief operating officer of Chesapeake Regional Healthcare. Margaret Baumgarten, M.D., is chief quality officer of EVMS Medical Group. Capt. Lisa Mulligan is commanding officer of Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth. Mike Dacey, M.D., is president and chief operating officer of Riverside Health System. Jordan Asher, M.D., is chief physician executive of Sentara Healthcare.