Now is not the time to let our guard down against COVID-19
Peter WT Pisters, M.D.
Since Memorial Day weekend, our nation has seen a sharp increase in the number of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases. Here in the nine-county Houston metro area we are also seeing an unprecedented number of new cases, causing our elected officials and public health leaders to declare that the numbers are rapidly moving in the wrong direction. While we expected further spread of the coronavirus in our community as states began reopening, the rapid rise in positive cases reminds us of a striking reality: COVID-19 will have an enduring presence in our lives for several more years.
As we are reminded by each day’s number of new cases, now is not the time to let our guard down.
COVID-19 reveals how our actions impact the lives of others
As president of MD Anderson, one important lesson I have taken away from this unprecedented moment is how connected we are as humans -- and how reliant the resilience and safety of an entire community can be on its individual members. Those of us who are healthy serve as the first line of defense for those who knowingly, or unknowingly, face health conditions or other factors that put them at greater risk for COVID-19 infection. These individuals could include our family, our friends, our neighbors, those we pass on the street or those we may never meet. At MD Anderson, it also includes our patients -- one of the largest and densest immunocompromised patient populations in the world -- whose immune systems are at significant risk due to their cancer history.
We all have an impact on one another, and this powerful interconnectedness is why MD Anderson is committed to three goals to inform all our decisions when we began planning our COVID-19 response back in January:
minimize the disease impact on our local community
We have made significant strides to protect one another, but the spike in cases is a striking reminder that this pandemic is just getting started.
As we approach the height of summer and an upcoming holiday, we cannot become complacent about COVID-19. The choices we make today can have a significant impact on the health of our entire community. Our recommitment to protective measures, such as staying home, will have a monumental impact as we work together to save lives.
Stay home to reduce the spread of COVID-19
Visiting crowded indoor settings like grocery stores, restaurants, and bars remains a major risk for all of us. Staying home and minimizing non-essential activities are reliable defenses against the transmission of COVID-19.
When outside of your home, you can contribute to reducing risk by avoiding crowded areas, wearing a mask and supporting businesses that promote safe practices.
By staying home as much as possible, you are lessening your own risk of exposure and ensuring the protection of others in the community.
Stay healthy to prevent the spread of COVID-19
The choices you make about your own health can affect those around you.
Practice good hand hygiene by frequently washing your hands or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after being in public. Wear masks in public and maintain a six-foot distance from all non-household members, particularly if you find yourself near someone who is not wearing a mask or face covering.
When facing the possibility of exposure, immediate, decisive steps can go a long way to limit the spread of COVID-19. Self-monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms and getting tested, if needed, help to create a starting point for contact tracing and a barrier for further spread. And as you wait for your test results, quarantine at home and isolate from household members to keep them and those they interact with safe.
Our steadfast solidarity against COVID-19 can make a difference
While COVID-19 has introduced new waves of uncertainty and unprecedented challenges, we have also witnessed an incredible sense of unity driven by our concern for one another.
Accepting the reality that we will live with COVID-19 for some time is tough. However, I am confident we can seize this extraordinary opportunity to bring our best selves to a moment of crisis and work together unlike ever before to create a stronger, safer and better tomorrow.