One month ago, we felt that the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, was slowing and many states, including Texas, began to allow relaxed regulations so businesses could gradually open again and commerce could resume. 

Unfortunately, as individuals began interacting in businesses, restaurants and bars, at the beach, and for other activities, many failed to observe recommendations for social distancing and use of face coverings. 

As a result, we are now seeing a frightening spike in new cases of COVID-19, with a concurrent rise in intensive care unit admissions and deaths. 

We simply cannot ignore the startling increase in cases of COVID-19 in our communities, our county and our state. If we are going to stop this rapid spread and get the disease back under control, all of us are going to have to be diligent and conscientious in following CDC and local guidelines and in practicing appropriate procedures to protect both ourselves and others. 

Dr. John H. Krouse

I want to be clear. It is everyone’s responsibility to take sound public health measures so we can once again decrease the transmission of this virus and lower the number of new cases. 

It can be done. We know how, and we need to act now.

COVID-19 infects individuals of all ages. We recently had a positive test on a 6-month old infant. Young adults have often felt that they are invincible and will not become infected, or that if they do get COVID-19 they will have mild cases and recover. It is not that straightforward. 

First, we have seen serious illness and death in individuals of all ages, including children and young adults, so no segment of our community is immune to the virus. 

Second, even if young people contract COVID-19 and recover, they may infect their parents and grandparents through close contact at home, and their family members may have more serious or even fatal illnesses.

In addition, even individuals who have no symptoms can travel within the community and spread the disease to others. 

These facts underscore why it is so important for every individual to act in a way that protects both themselves and other members of the community.

So, what can we do?

Face Facts

First, we need to recognize that COVID-19 is real. It is a dangerous and potentially deadly virus to which very few individuals have any immune protection. It spreads easily in close environments and it does not restrict itself to any age, gender, or population group. 

Be Responsible

Second, there is a large amount of evidence that demonstrates that we can decrease our risk of contracting coronavirus, as well as of transmitting it to others, by following several simple measures:

  • Wear face coverings and face masks.
  • Practice social distancing.
  • Remain at least six feet from others
  • Wash your hands frequently and well.
  • Use hand sanitizer
  • If you are sick or not feeling well, stay home.
  • Do not congregate in groups larger than 10 people. 

Keeping yourself and others safe is not a political issue; it is good public health and is everyone’s responsibility. 

Celebrate Safely

Third, we know this July 4th weekend is a time of great festivity for our country. We congregate to celebrate with barbecues, fireworks and great conversations. I would hope we can have these festivities together, but that we keep in mind the importance of celebrating safely, to protect ourselves and to take care of those with us. 

Not Feeling Well?

Finally, if you suspect that you may have COVID-19, or if you are having symptoms such as fever, chills, new onset of cough, or shortness of breath, please get yourself tested and then stay home. 

UT Health RGV is receiving more than 10,000 calls a day at our Patient Call Center.

We have conducted more than 20,000 tests at our lab, including testing 13,594 individuals from the RGV for COVID-19.

And we offer rapid and accurate testing for children and adults. If you feel you need to be tested, please call us to schedule a testing appointment.

Remember, COVID-19 continues to be a serious risk to all members of our Rio Grande Valley communities. The responsibility to decrease the spread of the virus and control this illness rests with all of us. 

Editor’s Note: The above commentary was provided by Dr. John H. Krouse, dean of the UTRGV School of Medicine and executive vice president for Health Affairs, on June 30, 2020, at Hidalgo County Commissioner’s Court. 

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above guest column shows Dr. John H. Krouse.

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