Seven months ago, when COVID-19 was new to all of us, we were eager to do whatever we could to help: we followed the regulations from state and industry officials, stayed home whenever possible, made and wore masks, kept our distance when we encountered others and communicated with our coworkers and loved ones electronically.

As the summer months went by and we didn’t experience a surge in our region, things started to feel a little more relaxed and “normal.” State regulations gradually eased, and we started getting back into social or group settings, wearing masks less and not being as careful about social distancing. We got tired of all the extra effort it takes to live in a pandemic. Complacency took over.

It’s October, and now we are seeing a surge at Lakewood Health System, and in our region. We’ve experienced a significant uptick in COVID-19 cases over the last couple of weeks. This virus is different than any other health event we have seen. The span of the event is longer and the number of cases is greater than influenza. So I’m asking all of us to dial up our efforts and safety practices.

Why?

First and foremost to protect each other, especially those among us who are most vulnerable or susceptible to contracting the virus. Secondly, as more people are exposed to COVID-19, quarantining will need to occur, and people will not be able to be at work. If we experience staffing shortages at Lakewood, we will not be able to serve our patients to the best of our ability. Our mission is to provide quality, personalized healthcare for a lifetime – and we are counting on you to help us do that.

This is not new information, but here are some good reminders:

  1. Wear a mask. Please follow state guidelines for mask-wearing. We require all staff, patients and visitors to wear a mask while at Lakewood Health System.
  2. Maintain distance. You can spread the virus before you even know you’re sick, so it’s important to stay at least 6 feet away from others when possible - even if you don’t have symptoms.
  3. Wash hands. Sanitize or wash your hands as often as you can.
  4. Limit group gatherings. We are still using virtual meetings to communicate with each other at Lakewood. If you can connect with friends or loved ones over Zoom or a similar program, that is the safest method.
  5. It’s a team effort. It’s up to all of us to make this work! If you feel uncomfortable somewhere because their safety practices are not up to par, it is your right to politely ask people to wear a mask or remove yourself from the situation.
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There are many things that are out of our control in today’s environment. But these are small things we can control. Thank you for stepping up the urgency and diligence to protect each other and ensure we at Lakewood can continue to serve you when you need us the most.

Tim Rice is the president and CEO at Lakewood Health System.