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We must stay vigilant with virus

Over the past three months, our organizations have proudly come together in an unprecedented fashion to address the enormous challenges we have faced as a community due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

This public health crisis is unlike anything most of us have ever experienced in our lifetimes, and it is only through a collective focus and response by health care leaders, our business community, and everyone who calls northwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York home that we can manage this pandemic in a manner that minimizes its serious associated health risks while also protecting the short and long-term economic well-being of our region.

Despite success, the virus remains a threat. In recent days, the number of COVID-19-infected patients has risen locally and across the country. We remain ready to provide care for patients — but we also need you to take some important steps to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community. We believe it’s imperative to not lose our focus on the basic steps that allow each of us to help all of us — protecting ourselves, our friends, and our family members, particularly those who are most vulnerable. The latter includes the elderly, but also people with other compromising medical conditions — and it isn’t always easy to know who those individuals are at a glance. So, we all must do the simple things that matter the most in helping to prevent illness and death during this pandemic — for the young, our seniors, and everyone.

As health care leaders, we ask the people of this region to:

¯ Wear protective masks whenever you’re around others and wear them correctly (cover your nose and mouth) … do it for yourself, and do it for others.

¯ Wash your hands and clean high-touch surfaces often … make it a habit.

¯ Practice physical distancing everywhere, staying six feet apart.

¯ If you have symptoms that you think could be COVID-19 or a respiratory illness, stay home and call your doctor.

¯ If you feel you may have been exposed to COVID-19, but have no symptoms, stay at home and call your doctor. That allows the best planning for possible testing and care.

¯ Finally, be kind to each other. A little more thoughtfulness, understanding, and tolerance for the inconveniences we are experiencing may be the best medicine of all.

Thank you. Be safe and well.

Karen Surkala is president of Westfield Memorial Hospital and Russell Elwell, MD, is medical director for Westfield Memorial Hospital.

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