Monday, January 18, 2021

Cowboy up, mask up, keep Montana open

by Marc Mentel
| August 2, 2020 1:00 AM

Wearing a mask and keeping 6 feet apart from others is the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19 and to ensure Montana businesses remain open during this challenging time. We all have a role to play during this pandemic to keep our loved ones, families, neighbors, communities and businesses safe. COVID-19 has created a new motto to help keep businesses and their clients safe: no shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service.

It is now more important than ever to remain vigilant to stop the spread of this invisible disease that has killed more than 600,000 people and sickened more than 14 million people worldwide. In Montana, we have seen a startling trend of more than 3,900 confirmed cases, 60 deaths, and evidence of community spread. Now is the time to act to help reduce the spread of this disease.

As physicians, we strongly encourage everyone to practice three simple steps to reduce the spread to our neighbors, ensure our businesses remain open, and get kids back to school. We recommend practicing the three W’s:

WEAR a mask

WATCH your distance and keep 6 feet apart from others

WASH your hands routinely with warm water and soap, or use hand sanitizer

We are now seeing a new trend in COVID-19 cases in youths and younger adults. With school activities slated to begin it is important to talk to your children and have them wear masks, keep 6 feet apart, and practice the guidelines above.

COVID-19 primarily spreads through small droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or even talks. This is especially concerning when we are in buildings. Not only will a mask help prevent you from getting COVID-19, but it will help stop the spread if you have the disease. The consequences of COVID-19 far outweigh any inconvenience wearing a mask may bring. Just remember, it is a selfless task, to wear a mask.

We also urge the public to practice social distancing by keeping 6 feet apart and avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people. This includes in your homes. There have been documented cases of spread through activities like church or social gatherings where entire groups have been infected, including some truly heartbreaking stories of entire families that have been sickened, or where people are left to die alone due to quarantine. Think about your actions and the consequences they may have when it comes to spreading this disease to your loved ones, family, coworkers or community. It is far better to be 6 feet apart, rather than 6 feet under.

Wearing a mask has become a state mandate now. Montana physicians overwhelmingly support this directive, and real Montanans should as well. Long before Montana was a state and had political parties, we had cowboys. True Montanans followed the Cowboy Code of Ethics. Essentially real cowboys do what they have to do to get the job done, they don’t whine, and they always help their neighbor.

We are in a unique and unprecedented time, both from a public health, economic, and political standpoint. As medical professionals we rely on science and data to drive informed decision making. The data is clear: masking, social distancing, and washing hands will reduce the chances of spreading COVID. It is our best and only option to help keep vulnerable populations healthy, keep our businesses open, and get our kids back to school. I urge you to take precautions now to protect yourself and others.

We are all in this together, and we are only as strong as our weakest link. So Cowboy Up, Mask Up and keep Montana open.

Dr. Marc Mentel is Montana Medical Association President