Letter to the Editor: Cedar City Hospital leaders implore community to support masks, social distancing

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LETTER TO THE EDITOR — We write this open letter to the community we serve, to voice our strong support of the governor’s mandate for masking and social distancing.

Cedar City Hospital, Cedar City, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Becki Bronson, St. George News / Cedar City News

We have a very diverse hospital board; each volunteer leader is tasked with providing our award-winning community hospital with vision and direction. While we differ in experience and perspective, we are all fully united in this: ensuring the health, safety, wellness and protection of our entire community.

Recently, Gov. Gary Herbert enacted a public health safety measure requiring masks to be worn and asking for social distancing, among other protective measures, to slow the spread of COVID-19.

This is not a time for fear. But this is not a time for complacency either. We implore you to support the governor’s mandates of masking and social distancing.

Why is doing this so important to Cedar City Hospital? It’s true that Cedar City Hospital continues to operate normally and is a safe place to get the care you need. We have prepared extensively for COVID-19 with needed supplies, training and support. (As a reminder: please do not delay or deny your own healthcare, either ongoing care, scheduled annual well-checks, or emergency care, and use the free COVID-19 emotional health hotline if needed: 833-442-2211.)

The reason the mandate is important is: Iron County is not an island in the state of Utah. When a patient comes to a smaller hospital like ours needing specialized care, we first stabilize the patient, then send them to larger hospitals that have specialized equipment, training, and experienced providers to provide the best care. Connecting patients with complex needs to the specific equipment and providers needed is “best practice” throughout all of the Intermountain hospital systems.

A caregiver that handles COVID-19 patients at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah. Undated photo. | Photo courtesy of Intermountain Healthcare, St. George News

As larger hospitals reach capacity, they now no longer have beds and staff available to care for those transferred patients, COVID or non-COVID.

Cedar City Hospital is one car wreck on I-15 or a local flu outbreak away from a full ICU at our small hospital. Even pre-COVID, patient numbers can fluctuate sharply and sometimes suddenly spike, with dozens of patients flooding the hospital in as short as an hour’s time. When you have more patients than beds and staff to care for them, then what? That is what the governor wants to avoid. The mandate is an attempt to slow the numbers of people who require hospital care simultaneously.

Another important point as to why we should keep the spread slow are caregivers, who are the backbone and true heroes of our hospital, and are carrying extraordinarily stressful and heavy burdens. Any time anyone, like a doctor, nurse, housekeeping or respiratory therapist enters or leaves a COVID-19 patient room, it takes three to five minutes to put on their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including a respirator and disposable gown and gloves, and another three to five minutes to take it all off and sanitize. It may surprise you to learn each must do this up to 30 to 50 times in one shift.

A caregiver that handles COVID-19 patients suits up at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah. Undated photo. | Photo courtesy of Intermountain Healthcare, St. George News

That is one element of many, and all this in addition to attending to the other patients and their needs. If we slow the spread, we spread out the high-demand, stress, and time-consuming responsibilities it takes to provide care to a COVID-19 patient. The caregivers at our hospital are our neighbors, friends, maybe even family members. They are a finite group of experienced, prepared, skilled professionals. When we wear masks and socially distance, they in turn will be healthy and available to do their job.

While there are many arguments out there, the science is clear: masking slows the spread. Keeping a social distance is also proven to help slow the spread. The science is also clear: you may not feel sick, but you could very likely be carrying COVID-19 anyway. And the only way masking works is if most people do it.

We are asking you to do it. Please join with us, along with religious leaders, community leaders, medical professionals and more in setting the example to wear your mask anywhere in public, and socially distance. Gathering in large groups at a time of a worldwide pandemic is simply unwise. We can each recognize that fact, whether or not the governor points it out to us in the form of a mandate.

Please do the right thing for your family, for your neighborhood, for our community and for our hospital. Please slow the spread so we have access to the specialized care we need and help lift the burden our healthcare providers are carrying right now. It’s a humble, kind, supportive thing to do. Our economic health depends on it, our emotional health depends on it, and for some their very lives depend on our doing this.

Submitted by LYNANN IMLAY, Cedar City Hospital Governing Board Vice-Chair; and ERIC PACKER, Cedar City Hospital Administrator and CEO.

COVID-19 information resources

St. George News has made every effort to ensure the information in this story is accurate at the time it was written. However, as the situation and science surrounding the coronavirus continues to evolve, it’s possible that some data has changed.

We invite you to check the resources below for up-to-date information and resources.

Southern Utah coronavirus count (as of Nov. 22, 2020, seven-day average in parentheses)

Positive COVID-19 tests: 10,370 (233.6 new infections per day in seven days, falling since Nov. 21)

  • County-by-county numbers unavailable on Sundays.

New infections for major Southern Utah cities (numbers released ahead of Southern Utah numbers):

  • St. George: 194 (single-day high, rising)
  • Washington City: 55 (rising)
  • Hurricane/LaVerkin: 37 (rising)
  • Ivins City/Santa Clara: 37 (rising)
  • Cedar City: 77 (single-day high, rising)

Deaths: 81 (1.7 per day, falling)

  • Washington County: 68 (1 new since last report: hospitalized male 45-64.)
  • Iron County: 4 
  • Garfield County: 6
  • Kane County: 1
  • Beaver County: 2

Hospitalized: Not released on Sunday.

Active cases: 3,814 (rising)

Recovered: 6,380 

Current Utah seven-day average: 3,310 (rising)

Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them. They do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting.

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