Doctor: Mask up to protect lives, protect economy

Posted 9/8/20

I want to remind us all that the COVID-19 pandemic, despite some recent improvements, is most definitely not yet over.

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Doctor: Mask up to protect lives, protect economy

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We are all anxious for school, work, sports and life generally to feel “normal” again. But as a local physician, I want to remind us all that the COVID-19 pandemic, despite some recent improvements, is most definitely not yet over.

In fact, on Sept. 3, Arizona reported 1,091 new cases, the most since August 13th. Plus, 65 new known deaths. And in the United States, we continue to have a daily increase of 40,000 new cases and about 1,000 Americans are losing their lives to COVID-19 each and every day. By Labor Day, we were close to 200,000 deaths, an increase of nearly 100,000 since Memorial Day.

So what can we do? Stay vigilant.

Don’t repeat our mistakes of two months ago, when we reopened too soon without much of a plan. If we want our children and families, particularly grandparents and elderly relatives, to be safe, we simply must continue to mask up and socially distance.

That is what has allowed us to slow the spread of the virus over the past several weeks. It is simple, safe and it really works. This is especially true as flu season returns.

The state and whole country saw President Trump’s Republican National Convention speech on the White House Lawn. Fifteen-hundred people, including Gov. Doug Ducey, sitting much too closely. And the vast majority were maskless.

The President missed an opportunity to demonstrate to the nation what should be done. Instead he demonstrated what not to do.

Pretend the novel coronavirus is behind us, that we don’t need to concern ourselves any more. Nothing could be further from the truth. To safely return to work, open schools and have sports, we must defeat the virus.

Until an effective treatment or vaccine is widely available, that means continued social distancing and face mask wearing when in public places. This not only saves lives but is the key to restoring our economy.

President Trump has largely refused to wear a mask. He has sidelined his medical experts, Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx. We are not doing a good job.

The United States — with only 4% of the world’s population — has nearly 25% of the world’s cases and deaths. A national mask-wearing mandate would be very helpful, but not very likely from the current administration. It is estimated that doing so would save 30,000 to 40,000 lives in just the next few months.

But in Arizona we should be able to expect more. On June 19, a group of concerned physicians sent a petition to Gov. Ducey. It had 7,500 signatures, many from doctors, nurses and health care workers. It stated: “Protect Arizonans and our Economy. Immediately Require the Use of Face Masks in Public Places.”

This has not been done. But thankfully most cities and counties have stepped up and require mask wearing. It has been very effective. A state mandate would still be helpful.

Let us all work to avoid another surge of cases. Continue to practice social distancing and masking. Avoid crowded indoor places.

Protect lives and our economy.

Dr. Richard Strand is a Scottsdale resident.

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