By Dr. Greg James, Chief Clinical Officer, Ascension Saint Thomas

Thank you for reading this, as COVID-19 is a serious threat to you and your loved ones. This is not an exaggeration – it’s our shared reality, and it is imperative that we are aligned as partners in tandem to take this seriously as we listen to the guidance and expertise of our public health and government officials.

The Metro Public Health Department reported that Davidson County has seen more than 8,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nashville/Davidson County, and the number of daily confirmed cases are consistently calculated to be in the hundreds. While early research has suggested that young, healthy people with no pre-existing conditions can often overcome the virus without requiring hospitalization, the reality is that young people can get very sick and even die from COVID-19. They can also easily spread the virus to more vulnerable friends and family, especially if they are asymptomatic carriers. We all have the shared responsibility to take this seriously.

When it comes to staying safe from the virus, home is the best place to be. But here are a few essential ways we can do our part to keep our loved ones and neighbors as protected as possible:

Wear a face covering in public.

Reserve medical grade masks for healthcare providers and essential workers, but if you’re in public, especially when you can’t successfully stay six feet away from others, wear a face covering. Additionally, ensure the face covering properly covers both your mouth and nose. We have many public safety standards that we widely follow, like wearing seatbelts or helmets. This is no different. Don’t leave home without a mask – for yourself, for your loved ones and for strangers, all equally at risk. Also remember that social distancing has been an effective practice, so stay home whenever possible.

Practice good personal hygiene.

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds each time, especially before eating, after touching anything and if you’ve been in a public space. Have hand sanitizer with you for times when soap isn’t available. When coughing or sneezing without a tissue, cover your mouth with the inside of your elbow. Avoid touching your face. If you feel sick, please stay home.

Keep surfaces clean.

Pay close attention to horizontal services and use appropriate disinfectants. Give the cleaning product contact time with the surface to ensure it’s properly cleaned. Continue to disinfect frequently used items like grocery carts, your car keys, door knobs and shared surfaces in your home

Be considerate.

It’s going to take every single one of us, working together, to stop the spread of COVID-19. We can do this by following the guidelines above, in addition to any other guidance from government and health officials, as well as advice from infectious disease experts who provide us with evidence-based, tried and true techniques to help stop the spread of this very serious, deadly virus.

Although COVID-19 is still in our communities, we understand that individuals in our local communities have emergency and healthcare needs outside of COVID-19, many of which cannot be delayed or deferred without serious health risks. You can rest assured that our Ascension Saint Thomas facilities — hospitals, emergency rooms, clinics and offices — along with other Middle Tennessee providers have implemented safeguards to minimize the exposure risks related to COVID-19 for all of our patients and care teams.

As these events unfold, patients can expect expanded access to healthcare services with enhanced safeguards to ensure our sites of care continue to serve as healing environments – where quality care is delivered with the highest levels of safety and compassion. We have added more ways to access care online, on your phone or by video chat. Ascension Saint Thomas doctors, like many others across the city and nation, are now providing online visits so that you can stay at home, get the care you need and avoid unnecessary contact with others during this time.

 We must remain vigilant and responsible, especially now, as we continue to reopen and reconnect. These preventive measures are in place to protect you, your family and our community. The sooner we prioritize personal and public safety together, the sooner we can be together.

NMN.Jul Blog.COVID Responsibility.Dr Greg JamesGreg James, MD, MBA, is chief clinical officer for Ascension Saint Thomas. A graduate of the University of Alabama School of Medicine, James completed his internship in Internal Medicine at the University of Tennessee Hospitals and a residency in Neurology, serving as chief resident, at the University of Alabama Hospital. He also holds an MBA from Auburn University.