By Robin Schaeffer
We get it.
After a couple months of relative seclusion, you’re probably eager to see friends and extended family, enjoy a favorite meal out of the house, and finally get that haircut you’ve been putting off. As Arizona begins to reopen, it may be tempting to put the COVID-19 pandemic out of your mind.
COVID-19 remains a serious public health threat — invisible, deadly and highly contagious. The Arizona Department of Health Services continues to report hundreds of new positive cases each day, and approximately 1,000 Arizona fatalities have been attributed to this virus in less than three months.
Just as important, we don’t know what comes next. Will numbers spike as Arizona re-opens? Does a second peak loom with the return of cooler weather in the fall?
On behalf of nearly 100,000 Arizona registered nurses — many of whom continue to work on the front lines of COVID-19 — we urge you to be careful. We can’t know the future, but each of us can minimize our risk. Here’s how:
- Keep your distance: This is no time to break the six-feet-apart routine. Work from home if you are able; if not, limit your contact with others by conducting group meetings virtually, and taking the stairs or waiting for an empty elevator. During your leisure time, try to visit public places like grocery stores, restaurants or shops during off-peak hours.
- Wear a mask: A growing body of evidence says wearing a facial covering in public is one of the best things we can do to protect ourselves and those around us from COVID-19. A facial covering is especially important any time social-distancing isn’t practical.
- Wash your hands: Your parents were right: Clean hands really are one of the best ways to stay healthy and prevent spread of illness. Soap, warm water and count to 20.
- Use common sense: This is a biggie. Stay home if you don’t feel well, of course, but remember that even people who don’t have symptoms can be contagious. That means you should do whatever you can to limit your exposure. Walk into a restaurant that’s ignoring distancing guidelines? Leave immediately. Continue to support those businesses that are following public health guidelines by limiting occupancy, sanitizing regularly, and taking other steps to protect customers. And remember that just because you can visit a busy public place right now doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Evaluate your own risk profile and decide how much of a chance you’re willing to take.
The good news is the vast majority of Arizonans have behaved responsibly through this pandemic, and that has kept Arizona hospitals from becoming overrun and saved countless lives. Thank you.
Reviving Arizona’s economy or protecting public health is a false choice. We can do both. As government restrictions expire, the responsibility falls to each of us to take the steps that will keep our communities safe.
Editor’s note: Robin Schaeffer is the executive director of the Arizona Nurses Association.