As COVID-19 infections continue to surge across the state, California’s leading healthcare systems are offering a prescription to residents to help slow the spread of the virus: Stay home for the holidays.
At a Dec. 22 virtual statewide joint press conference, healthcare system leaders, physicians and frontline workers from Sutter Health, Kaiser Permanente and Dignity Health—in partnership with California Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly—acknowledged staying home and limiting celebrations may be bitter medicine for Californians weary of sheltering in place and hungry for social interaction.
But the leaders emphasized Californians’ behavior over the next few weeks could prove to be the tipping point for whether hospitals are overwhelmed by COVID patients or successfully manage the surge of critically ill patients.
“Each of us can help slow the spread of this virus so that hospitals across California can continue to care for all patients who need us, whether they have COVID or not,” said Rishi Sikka, M.D., president of System Enterprises for Sutter Health and one of the participants in the virtual press conference.
“With the arrival of a vaccine, we’re at a turning point in our fight against this deadly virus,” he said. “A healthier future is ahead. If we keep that future in mind, then the sacrifices we’re being asked to make this holiday season will all be worth it next year.”
Healthcare system leaders said the current surge is threatening the ability of hospitals to care for patients and increasing the strain on frontline workers—the nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists and others who put their own health on the line to care for COVID patients.
“The vaccines mean there is hope on the horizon, but we cannot let our guard down yet,” said Vanessa Walker, D.O., Valley Area electronic Intensive Care Unit (eICU) Medical Director for Sutter Health. “It will still be many months for enough vaccine to roll out to start making a significant difference. In the meantime, it’s up to each of us to choose to stay home for the holidays and help slow the spread.”
Dr. Sikka continued, “Celebrating outside, wearing masks and avoiding non-essential travel all help reduce the spread of the coronavirus and increase safety.”
The experts acknowledged it’s not always possible to completely avoid in-person interactions. To help lower your chances of catching or spreading the virus:
1. Keep it covered: Cover your nose and mouth. Back away from other people if you can’t stay covered. Maintain six feet distance from other people.
2. Take it outside. If you gather, aim for outside and layer up. If you are inside, open windows, turn on fans and use air purifiers as much as possible. Fresh air movement helps dilute virus particles.
3. Keep it short: Limit in-person interactions
In this video, Bill Isenberg, M.D., Sutter Health’s chief quality and safety officer, walks through several everyday situations and the actions you can take to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Remember, doctors say the most effective thing you can do to fight the spread of the virus is to stay home and to wear a mask everywhere else.