As President of Cox Medical Center Branson, I’m contacting you to share evidence on the importance of masking with the paper and the public. While there is no science to indicate when it’s too early to mask, our experts say science can tell us when it’s too late. We’re getting close to the point when it’s time to act.
At CoxHealth, we experienced a 43% growth in total positive lab results last week and an overall increase of 10% positive rates when comparing July cases with June cases. The increased hospital testing, rapidly growing number of virus cases in Stone and Taney counties, strained regional hospitals, and an increase of people being tested at our Mobile Testing Unit (MTU) from 4/day at the beginning of July to 30/day as of last week, are signs for action.
Our positive results are increasing because the disease is beginning to grow rapidly in prevalence, not because we are increasing the number of people we are testing. This is leading us to great concerns for our communities’ health and future.
Bottom line, the virus is rapidly growing in our area. Our local and regional health departments are reporting surges in cases. Northwest Arkansas is in a surge and Joplin appears to be in the throes of a similar surge. Additionally, nearby hospitals are becoming strained and sending cases they cannot handle to CoxHealth. Our neighboring communities have increased their case numbers so high it has made national news, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is on the ground.
While CoxHealth has physical capacity at this point, and plenty of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), we have limitations on important medications such as Remdesivir. The distribution of this drug is controlled by the state government due to its scarcity; we have enough for ten patients at this point. We also have limited access to convalescent plasma. Many of our most acute patients need treatment by both therapies to have a chance at a positive outcome.
Myths are circulating that wearing a mask can make you pass out, or that if you can hold your breath for 10 seconds, you do not have the virus. Neither of these are true. There is no compelling evidence that masking causes harm, yet there is compelling evidence that masking can slow the transmission rate (look at the Springfield Great Clips episode). That’s why we believe the next logical step to combat COVID-19 is to put a city masking ordinance in place as soon as possible.
It has become clear in city after city that once this disease gains momentum, the time to mitigate has most often already passed – and occurs after hospitals become overwhelmed.
We ask that everyone help us disrupt the spread of this disease and protect each other through the simple act of masking. Hopefully, this will buy us time for the advancement of more therapies and even a vaccine to protect our communities.
William K. Mahoney
President of Cox Medical Center Branson