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OPINION

COVID-19: Wear a mask to protect others

Dr. Eric Clarkson
Pratt Tribune
Pratt physician Eric Clarkson believes it is time to put aside personal pride and do what is best to protect others in the community, those who have weaker immune systems, those who may be more susecptible to the coronavirus disease. It is time to put on a mask when among other people because it it the best way to protect others from unknown carriers of the disease which has seen a dramatic rise in Kansas over the past few days.

Dr. Eric Clarkson, Pratt Regional Medical Center Emergency Center Director and Pratt Family Practice Physician, speaks out to let others know it is time to consider why masks are needed at this time in Pratt, Kansas.

I’ve seen a lot of Faecbook posts from individuals in my community commenting on the relatively low death rate of COVID. Some are saying “because over 99% of cases recover or do fine we shouldn’t have to forego our freedoms” or “submit” to masks. As a physician in this community let me say that WE SHOULD NOT BE FOCUSING ON THE DEATH RATE. While 80% of infections do fine about 20% need hospital level care. Our hospital (PRMC) has less than 30 beds and serves an area of over 20,000 people. Even if our death rate is ZERO an outbreak would have terrible consequences for our community.

The average hospitalized COVID patient spends 10-13 days in the hospital. Even a modest outbreak in our region could cripple our hospital and our small healthcare workforce. Back in March we shut down and saw delays in surgeries, endoscopes, diagnostic tests, missed care for chronic diseases, etc. THAT WAS WITH ZERO COVID PATIENTS IN PRATT. Imagine the cost (not just financial) if we had our entire 30 beds filled with COVID patients. No surgeries, “we need to conserve that PPE.” Come to the hospital for your screening mammogram, “No thank you.” I need you to come get labs to monitor your meds, “uh.. no thanks... I’ll wait.”

People - this is not a discussion about Case Fatility Rates. This is not a discussion about your freedoms. This is a discussion about your community, your neighbors, and a fantastic group of nurses, therapists, technicians, pharmacists, doctors, administrators, and countless support staff that keep your community hospital open.

There is still A LOT about this virus that we don’t know. But what we do know through multiple scientific studies is this:

1)Frequent hand washing  helps reduce the spread of COVID-19

2) Face coverings worn in public help contain spread

3)Physical distancing keeps the amount of exposure less.

Here in Pratt, we recently had to transport an elderly resident with multiple medical comorbidities to Wichita. This person tested postive for COVID-19. I am worried for this patient’s life. This patient lives in our community. They likely contracted COVID in this community. We do not know how yet.

I know many of you. I know you are kind, generous, and loving people. Nobody wants to intentionally harm someone. Please do whatever you can to protect the least of these. Wearing a mask isn’t about losing your freedom, it is about doing the right thing to protect others.

It’s time to put one on when you are around other people. It’s time to care about others.