The COVID-19 pandemic has been almost all filled with tragedies, challenges, tough decisions and unwelcome changes. When Governor Inslee appointed Vice Admiral (ret.) Raquel “Rocky” Bono to lead the Health System Response Management Team and WSHA “loaned” me to help out I realized a silver lining. As part of her need to quickly learn about Washington Hospitals she went to different parts of the State and I went with her (albeit, in the age of social distancing, we were in separate cars). And, more recently, those visits have included Governor Inslee and Secretary of Health John Weisman. Common topics were PPE, testing, staffing resources, surge plans and increasingly how hospitals leaders can influence good public health behaviors beyond the walls of the hospital.
Every place we stopped and every hospital leader we talked with made me so proud as we heard example after example of how embedded the culture of working together, of putting the good of the community and the people served above the individual leader or hospital is among the WSHA membership. The geography didn’t matter, the size of the hospital didn’t matter, the demographics of the community didn’t matter. As they spoke, hospital leaders consistently shared true authenticity and innovation in the commitment of doing whatever it takes, even in such hard times, to fill gaps, improve health, initiate new partnerships, tell the hard truths and make it clear that a hospital is more than a place. Although in better times hospitals may be taken for granted it is being made very clear now how much they are the lynch pin for the community.
And, so masks. Another topic that came up with every visit; including some with protestors. Personally, I hate wearing one. They’re hot and hard to talk through. I’m almost positive I don’t have the virus. And still, when I’m away from home and can’t stay six feet apart – I wear a mask.
Some say it’s a political ploy, that it’s a partisan issue. Maybe. But, so what? Others say, “the government can’t tell me what to do.” Well, regulation is part of what the government does. And, besides, that isn’t relevant – The science is overwhelmingly strong and completely compelling. Wearing a face covering makes a difference in reducing the spread of the virus and the disease it causes. And, although I’m almost sure I don’t have the virus, I’m not 100 percent sure. I’m not selfish enough to have my individual liberty, personal convenience or vanity take priority over my responsibility as a member of the community. It would horrify me to find out I placed someone at risk of getting the virus or that I contributed to the slowdown of reopening the State.
I wear a mask and everyone else should, too.