'COVID-19 is not behind us': Doctors, nurses groups urge Americans to wear masks in open letter

The leading associations for doctors, nurses and the health care industry at large together issued an open letter on Monday urging Americans to wear a mask and practice social distancing amid an uptick in confirmed coronavirus cases across the country.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have urged the American people to protect themselves, their neighbors and their loved ones amidst the worst global health crisis in generations,” the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and American Nurses Association wrote in the letter dated July 6.

After the number of cases and deaths began to decline following widespread stay-at-home orders enacted this spring, states began to hastily reopen their economies. But the groups said “steps that were critical to the progress we made were too quickly abandoned.”

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“We are now watching in real-time as a dramatic uptick in COVID-19 cases is erasing our hard-won gains,” they wrote. “Hospitals in some states are at or nearing their ICU capacity. Shortages of personal protective equipment and testing supplies continue to pose a dire threat to health care workers and patients alike.”

The country began the month of July with cases climbing in 40 states and reported its three highest daily case totals since the pandemic began in the spring, according to data compiled by the New York Times.

The surge in new cases, including in states like Arizona, Florida, Texas and California, has been blamed in part on Americans not wearing masks or obeying other social-distancing rules amid the phased reopenings. The rising cases has even prompted some governors to halt reopenings of businesses or to order others to re-close.

A person wears a protective face mask at Brighton Beach in Coney Island as New York City moves into Phase 2 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to curb the coronavirus pandemic on July 5, 2020. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

The organizations pointed to testimony last week by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, who told Congress that the U.S. could see up to 100,000 new coronavirus cases daily if the country does not take more precautions.

For comparison, the U.S. topped more than 50,000 new daily cases last week, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

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“This is why as physicians, nurses, hospital and health system leaders, researchers and public health experts, we are urging the American public to take the simple steps we know will help stop the spread of the virus: wearing a face mask, maintaining physical distancing, and washing hands. We are not powerless in this public health crisis, and we can defeat it in the same way we defeated previous threats to public health—by allowing science and evidence to shape our decisions and inform our actions,” the letter states.

The groups called on citizens to “resist confusing re-opening with returning to normalcy.” 

“Doing so will escalate this crisis and result in more suffering and death,” the letter reads. 

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It concluded: “To those of you who are doing your part in helping turn the tide of this pandemic – thank you. Your actions are critical to stopping the spread of COVID-19. Moving forward, we must all remain vigilant and continue taking steps to mitigate the spread of the virus to protect each other and our loved ones. There is only one way we will get through this – together.

This story was reported from Cincinnati.