Chief medical officers: It will take all of us to control the COVID-19 pandemic

In this Tuesday, May 19, 2020, photo, health investigator Mackenzie Bray adjusts her mask at the Salt Lake County Health Department, in Salt Lake City. Bray normally works to track contacts for people with sexually transmitted diseases, but she was re-assigned during the coronavirus pandemic. She is now one of 130 people at this county health department assigned to track down COVID-19 cases in Utah's urban center around Salt Lake City. The investigators, many of them nurses, each juggle 30 to 40 cases that can include a total of several hundred people. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

As leaders and physicians in Utah’s health care community, we’ve been watching cautiously as cases of new COVID-19 have continued to rise in the past 10 days throughout the state and, in particular, several counties.

We have urged all Utahns to heed the serious warnings from medical experts regarding this virus, and to take proactive measures to protect their health and the health of others through steps to reduce the transmission of the coronavirus in our communities. Yet, many are not heeding these warnings.

We, along with all of the state’s medical community, continue to advocate for people to wear face masks at all times when in public, socially distance from others by at least 6 feet, avoid large crowds and gatherings, practice good hand hygiene and to stay home and isolated if sick.

Last week, Gov. Gary Herbert and the Utah County Commission announced additional measures to address the state’s growing cases of COVID-19. Collectively, we as medical leaders of Utah’s major health systems, support the move to orange and mandate that masks be worn in public.

We implore all Utahns to continue to practice social distancing, hand-washing and wearing a mask when around others. Furthermore, we ask all public servants to enforce the emergency rules along with other local ordinances and state laws that keep all of us safe.

The potential impact from increasing COVID-19 cases on the state’s hospitals and our ability to ensure available resources and personnel for future COVID and non-COVID patients is critical. As we enter the fall season, with influenza and other seasonal ailments, it’s critical that we collectively reduce the number of new COVID-19 cases.

We have seen the results in other states when residents don’t heed these important warnings. We are already experiencing an increase in the number of Utahns admitted to our hospitals and requiring care in our intensive care units and, with flu season upon us, we will need our ICUs and critical care resources to be available.

We feel strongly that every Utahn who becomes ill, who is hospitalized and who dies because we do not socially distance, practice hand hygiene and practice mask wearing, is a failure of the individual responsibility we all have toward one another.

Together, we can get through this pandemic. But, as this virus is a serious and dangerous communicable health threat, we know that it will take all of us working together to reduce transmission and to ultimately reduce serious illnesses and death in our community.

We believe these actions are necessary. We support these actions and ask all to do their part as individuals and leaders to come together and to unite to help keep Utahns safe during this unprecedented time.

Dr. Michael Baumann

Michael Bauman, M.D., is chief medical officer of HCA/MountainStar Healthcare.

Dr. Mark Briesacher

Mark Briesacher, M.D., is chief medical officer of Intermountain Healthcare.

Dr. Arland Jarrett

Arlen Jarrett, M.D., is chief medical officer of Steward Health Care.

Dr. Tom Miller

Thomas Miller, M.D., is chief medical officer of University of Utah Health.