Mask Up, Greene County | Letter to the editor | Tracy Warner

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As a newcomer to Jefferson and Greene County, I’ve appreciated the warm welcome and the friendly conversations with residents sharing the history of the area and the benefits of living in a smaller community. As I’ve spent more time here, I’ve been able to compare and contrast a community of 4,100 and county of under 10,000 residents to my experiences living in West Des Moines and growing up in a Kansas City suburb. The stark difference I currently see is the lower proportion of Greene County residents that aren’t abiding by guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), particularly the recommendation to wear a cloth mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

To date, there are over 150 cases of COVID-19 in Greene County; at the current rate of transmission, the number of cases is set to double in 27 days. Although the numbers seem fairly low compared to other areas of the state, the positivity rate is now 8.8%; and although we have yet to confirm a death in Greene County as a result of COVID-19, over 215,000 Americans have died from the virus and more than 7.5 million Americans have been diagnosed.

So I ask, if the CDC has recommended wearing masks to prevent the virus spread, why aren’t we all masking? I mask to protect you, and the precious lives of the people I interact with on a daily basis.

I mask for my family – my husband is high risk because of cardiovascular disease; my son, and my daughters who call me Queen and have bright futures despite the current social unrest in this country; my three grand kiddos so I can continue to see their shining eyes; my sister and brother-in-law who teach school and have the opportunity to influence our nation’s future leaders.

I mask for our team at Greene County Medical Center – all the health care providers and staff:

·         Who support patient operations and are true heroes during this pandemic;

·         Who are putting aside their own fears and concerns about their families to care for you and yours;

·         Who are safer at work in the hospital because we require face coverings;

·         Who are being exposed by community spread when they leave the hospital;

·         Who are uncomfortable wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) all day every day and know there’s no excuse for saying it’s hot, uncomfortable, or they need a break (think how uncomfortable it is to be on a ventilator so you can breathe), and are offered alternatives to masks for those who  are claustrophobic, anxious about something covering their mouth, or have another health reason for not masking;

·         Who believe the credible science behind the impact of masking to prevent the spread (read the CDC information or better yet, The New England Journal of Medicine, rather than social media posts);

·         Who don’t buy into the herd immunity theories that, “we’re all going to get it anyway, we might as well get it over with”, which by the way, takes 80% to 90% of the world’s population to become infected with COVID-19 and recover, costing not only a lot of lives but also time;

·         Who know it’s not just like having a bad cold or the flu because they’ve seen the virus cause brain-related conditions in patients even when they haven’t been hospitalized in intensive care units, including confusion, trouble focusing, and challenges in concentration;

·         Who understand there’s so much uncertainty about the long lasting impact of an new/novel virus to the human race, and there’s evidence of the impact of the virus on the lungs and heart months after infection, including heart muscle damage even for patients who experience mild COVID-19 symptoms; 

·         Who realize the newness of this pandemic has resulted in how we’re addressing the virus today versus six months ago, and the media is reporting on the change in the understanding that masks were originally thought to protect against getting the disease whereas today, we wear them to reduce the likelihood of transmitting it to others we encounter (think: I wear it to protect you and you wear it to protect me – we’re both being unselfish);

·         Who have developed coping mechanisms beyond a message of hope and faith in their religious leader or beliefs;

·         Who are informed Americans and understand that mask requirements do not infringe on their Constitutional rights. You can’t go into a store without a shirt or shoes; add masking to that statement;

·         Who believe that if there are credible solutions to saving lives, they should be universally accepted (recall little to no seatbelt usage until seatbelt mandates);

·         Who have tragically felt the grief from the death of a loved one or a friend, and know that the passing could likely have been prevented.

Who do you mask for, Greene County?

Tracy Warner, who is the CEO of Greene County Medical Center