A les­son from hospi­tal work­ers and hair stylists: Wear a mask and we’ll be safer

Chicago Sun-Times - - OPINION -

As we be­gin to see an­other uptick in the num­ber of pa­tients hos­pi­tal­ized with COVID-19, I’d like to share some of what we’ve learned at Ed­ward-Elmhurst Health in the past six months.

Most peo­ple who con­tract the coro­n­avirus (85%) have no symp­toms or mild-to­mod­er­ate symp­toms.

Some peo­ple have more se­vere symp­toms and need to be hos­pi­tal­ized. Those in­di­vid­u­als are more likely to be older, im­muno­com­pro­mised, or have chronic con­di­tions such as di­a­betes, res­pi­ra­tory dis­ease, heart con­di­tions or obe­sity. But not al­ways.

Whether hos­pi­tal­ized pa­tients die or are dis­charged home, the dis­ease is dev­as­tat­ing. Pa­tients are ex­tremely sick, of­ten re­quir­ing me­chan­i­cal ven­ti­la­tion, in­ten­sive care and weeks in the hospi­tal. The suf­fer­ing ex­pe­ri­enced by our pa­tients and their fam­i­lies has been im­mea­sur­able and has had a pro­found and un­for­get­table im­pact on our health care work­ers.

COVID-19 is very con­ta­gious. Why? Be­cause it is “novel,” or new. This means our bod­ies have no means to fight it.

We do know, how­ever, how to re­duce the spread and your like­li­hood of con­tract­ing the virus: Wear a mask. Wash your hands and avoid touch­ing your face. Prac­tice phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing — at least 6 feet apart.

This week, the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol pub­lished a report about two hair stylists who were pos­i­tive for COVID-19. Be­tween them, they ser­viced 139 clients. Not one of the 139 ex­posed in­di­vid­u­als be­came in­fected. Why? Be­cause the sa­lon in­sisted that the stylists and their clients wear masks. That’s it. Quite sim­ple, isn’t it?

Our health care team has worked long and gru­el­ing hours over months to do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to pro­tect the health of our com­mu­nity. Their sac­ri­fices have been and con­tinue to be hum­bling.

The way you can pro­tect your­self and those around you is sim­ple, but not al­ways easy to prac­tice, es­pe­cially at a gath­er­ing where those around you are not wear­ing masks. I get it. But there is sim­ply no deny­ing that wear­ing a mask is the most ef­fec­tive means we have for pre­vent­ing the spread of coro­n­avirus.

It is the re­spon­si­ble thing to do. Wear a mask and pro­tect your­self and those around you. And take a stand; re­mind oth­ers of the im­por­tance of wear­ing a mask. It is our civic re­spon­si­bil­ity and the hon­or­able thing to do. Mary Lou Mas­tro, Sys­tem CEO Ed­ward-Elmhurst Health

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