By George Rapier, M.D.
As I write this, Texas and a few other states will no longer require people to wear a mask in public. In Texas, all businesses—including restaurants, bars and gyms—can open at 100% capacity starting Wednesday, March 10.
This is dangerous. We have made progress, but COVID-19 is not yet under control.
WellMed will continue to require the public to wear face masks in all its clinics and facilities. The governor said we, and other businesses, can enforce this policy in our buildings, which follows guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
We have good reason to take this stand. We’re worried about the safety of our patients and employees.
But we’re also worried about all of you. I urge you to continue to live with masks, social distancing and frequent hand washing for a while longer.
Worn properly, masks save lives. There’s a lot of evidence to back up this claim.1 If you don’t believe that masks work, it’s going to be hard for me to convince you, because you’re just denying science. I don’t believe most of you are in that camp.
More likely, you may think we don’t need to wear masks anymore. Fewer people are in the hospital. Fewer cases and deaths are being reported. Three highly effective vaccines are now available. The crisis is almost over, right?
Not yet. Here’s why.
The U.S. recently reported the most vaccinations in a single day—2.9 million people—on Friday, March 5.2 That’s impressive, but we’re still months away from fully vaccinating more than half of the U.S. population age 16 and older. And we don’t yet have a vaccine for children under 16.
As things stand today, too many people can catch and spread COVID-19.
Please, remain disciplined to protect your health and the health of your loved ones. Avoid going out in public if possible, and certainly avoid crowded bars or restaurants. Wear a mask if you go out. Practice social distancing, and frequently wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
And if you are eligible, get vaccinated. Don’t wait for a particular type of vaccine. Get the first one available from a pharmacy, your doctor’s office or at a community vaccination clinic like the two WellMed is operating with the City of San Antonio. All three approved vaccines are safe, effective and proven to keep you out of the hospital if you catch COVID-19.
WellMed CARES about the safety and health of the communities we serve. As vaccination efforts ramp up, we believe we are getting closer every day to a return to normal. We are not there yet.
Dr. George Rapier is the founder, chairman and CEO of WellMed Medical Management, Inc.