Dear editor,

The emergence of the novel coronavirus early this year presented the world with an unprecedented challenge. Not since the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 have we faced such a daunting public health crisis. By late February, it was clear our healthcare system, government and every American citizen would need to work together to conquer this invisible enemy.

Bernie Sherry

Throughout this challenge, we have found inspiration in witnessing the incredible and selfless work of caregivers at the front lines of our health system and across the country. The doctors, nurses, facility management teams and other support teams in our hospitals are giving everything they have to meet the needs of their communities. These heroes are the embodiment of our mission to serve.

As we enter the fifth month of this public health crisis, I continue to take comfort in seeing the compassion and commitment of everyday citizens to protect their communities, families and neighbors and help our healthcare heroes stop this virus.

It is important to understand that COVID-19 is easily spread and can have devastating effects. Therefore, our communities should come together to use every mitigation tool at our disposal to halt its spread.  Looking after each other, being neighborly, is what American values are all about.

We should all be taking some simple steps to reduce the risk of acquiring or transmitting COVID-19. For starters, we should all wear a mask or face covering while in public. Masking helps prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people, an important aspect of “source control” of the virus.

Frequent hand washing for about 20 seconds with soap and water, and refraining from touching your face, are two of the most effective ways to remove germs and prevent infection to yourself and others, requiring nothing more than a few moments of your time. This kind of handwashing should extend beyond the pandemic and become a regular, healthy habit.

And maintaining social distancing in public spaces is another simple yet important way to keep the virus from spreading.

As healthcare providers, we strongly encourage everyone to take care of themselves and their neighbors through the simple acts of washing your hands regularly, keeping physical distance, and wearing masks or face coverings while in public.

While we still have much to learn about COVID-19, we know that everyone in our community plays a crucial role in helping us all stay healthy and safe. Only through the cooperation of everyone can we curb the high number of cases that we are experiencing.

We appreciate the efforts of local businesses, institutions and schools that have developed and are implementing mitigation strategies, including mask guidelines and social distancing for their employees, customers and community members. We’ve seen many organized efforts come together over the past several months to ensure that front-line workers and our most vulnerable community members have access to masks and other protective equipment.

We understand some of these safety measures may result in discomfort. However, we have a shared responsibility as members of our communities to care for others as we would ourselves. As you venture outside during these hot summer months, we implore you to proudly show your American values: be responsible, do the right thing and love your neighbors through these simple acts.

Equally important is seeking the care you need if you become sick or develop an emergency. We’ve made many changes to our hospitals, office practices and emergency departments to keep you safe and protect you from the COVID-19 virus. Too often we’ve seen patients suffer at home with a medical emergency out of fear of coming to the hospital or other healthcare setting. Please don’t delay the care you need to preserve your health.

If we work together, continue to wear masks, wash our hands, and adhere to social distancing, we will be successful in helping to keep each other safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Bernie Sherry, Ministry Market Executive, Ascension Wisconsin

Editor’s note: Wausau Pilot & Review gladly publishes commentary from readers, residents and candidates for local offices. The views of readers and columnists are independent of this newspaper and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wausau Pilot & Review. To submit, email or mail to 500 N. Third St., Suite 208-8, Wausau, Wis. 54403.