While there is still much we need to learn about COVID-19, we do know that the best, most reliable, and cheapest way to stem its spread is by doing two simple things: wearing a mask and staying socially distant.
In many cases of infectious disease, it is the healthcare workers who are on the front lines every day, putting themselves at risk. A pandemic, however, changes the algebra of that equation. Today, everyone — me, you, colleagues, neighbors, family members, friends, and strangers — is on the front lines. Each and every one of us is the best defense we currently have in slowing the propagation of this horrible disease. How we behave has an immediate effect.
We have a responsibility to ourselves and to each other to stay the course and continuously, habitually, choose to do the right thing. Wearing masks and maintaining social distances (even when not on Grounds) will help reduce transmissions and save lives. Following these standard protocols will buy us time until a vaccine is created.
Everyone wants to make a difference in their lives. Here, right now, is your chance to have an enormous, direct impact on those around you. Your actions will have consequences to those with whom you come in contact. It is up to you whether those consequences will be negative or positive.
Fatigue is setting in. I understand. Frustration abounds. I get that, too. I feel the same way. For months, we have been living with fear and uncertainty of what tomorrow will bring. It has been . . . unrelenting. Letting our guard down though, even for a moment, can create setbacks, forcing us to spend even longer under this dark cloud.
We are a community dedicated to serving. Whether it is healing, educating, or discovery, we have chosen to serve our community. And when I use the word community, I do not mean just Charlottesville; I mean humanity. We are here to heal, to train, to research — and we cannot do that if we fall ill or if we put those whom we serve at risk.
So please: keep a mask handy, keep your distance.
We will get through this together.
David S. Wilkes, MD
Dean, UVA School of Medicine
James Carroll Flippin Professor of Medical Science