The COVID-19 epidemic has created uncertainty in our lives. What just a few weeks ago seemed to be nothing more than a topic of conversation about a problem on the other side of the world has now become a reality in Pennsylvania.
It’s still not too late to “flatten the curve” and reduce the rise in COVID-19 cases here in our region. We are seeing a small but increasing number of cases here in Schuylkill County. With immediate and diligent actions, we can turn the tide and slow the rise in cases. By following simple precautions, we will effectively slow the rise of cases in our region. It’s important to NOT panic and to stay calm.
As your trusted local healthcare providers, we want you to know the facts. If we all work together, we can save lives and get through this as quickly as possible. We can’t know for sure how long COVID-19 will be with us, but we do know that this is likely more of a marathon than a sprint. So, what can we do to combat COVID-19 more quickly and effectively?
- Stay home and away from others as much as possible. That’s what is meant by “social distancing.” If you leave the house for essential trips (groceries, medical care or work), try to stay at least 6 feet away from others and/or wear a mask over your mouth and nose.
This is important because the virus is spread through tiny droplets while coughing, sneezing or possibly even talking within a close distance.
It’s also important to avoid contact with anyone with flu-like symptoms or who has tested positive for COVID-19. If you or someone in your home has symptoms or you suspect it might be COVID-19, call your physician’s office or one of our hotline numbers for guidance. That person should wear a mask and stay apart from others in the home.
- Wash your hands — often. It really is the best way to prevent disease and infection. Use soap and water and be sure to scrub between your fingers, under your nails and on the backs of your hands. When soap and water aren’t available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer that has at least 60 percent alcohol. If the skin on your hands isn’t getting dry by now, you probably aren’t washing them enough.
- Try not to touch your face. The virus enters your body through your mouth, nose and eyes. Rubbing your eyes or touching your mouth or nose can transfer it.
- Keep surfaces clean. Use disinfecting cleaners to wipe down surfaces in your home, car and workplace frequently.
- Give back if you can. The outpouring of community support that Geisinger and St. Luke’s have seen in the past few weeks is truly overwhelming. We are so moved by it. There are many ways to offer support:
- If you have personal protective equipment (e.g., masks, face shields) that you are willing to donate, our websites can direct you on how best to do that.
- Give blood. There’s a shortage right now, because there are fewer people coming out to blood drives, but the need is still there. Visit GiveAPint.org for local blood drives.
- Check on your neighbors, especially seniors. Going to the grocery store? Check to see if they need anything while you’re there.
- Encourage our caregivers. From social media posts to homemade signs, these displays of support for our physicians, nurses, therapists and support staff keep them going.
We will get through this. Geisinger and St. Luke’s have been preparing since January. We are ready to care for COVID-19 patients.
(Anderson is president and CEO of St. Luke’s University Health Network; Ryu is president and CEO of Geisinger)