Lawton physicians are among the chief medical officers and chief clinical officers of Oklahoma hospitals and hospital systems who have issued a joint statement about Oklahoma’s response to COVID-19.

Those who signed the statement included Dr. Scott Michener, chief medical officer, Comanche County Memorial Hospital; Dr. David Hanley, chief of staff, Southwestern Medical Center; Dr. Krystal Vonfeldt, chief of staff, Duncan Regional Hospital; and Dr. Julie Schaufele, chief of staff, Elkview General Hospital, Hobart.

The statement:

As the physician leaders of hospitals and health care systems across the state of Oklahoma, we have an important safety message regarding COVID-19.

COVID-19 positive cases and hospitalizations have soared over the past several weeks, nationally and in Oklahoma. As the front-line professionals in this battle, we urge every Oklahoma resident to take the necessary steps now to prevent the spread of this deadly disease. This is not a political statement. We are doctors urging those we care for across the state to take action now.

Our hospitals will continue to require staff, patients and visitors to follow the strictest public safety protocols, including mask-wearing, screenings upon entry to our facilities and limitation of visitors. We ask that each and every Oklahoman do the public version of these precautions: wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet apart, avoid crowds and wash your hands frequently.

Since the first positive COVID-19 case in March, Oklahoma has seen a spike in positive cases after every major holiday. Subsequently, hospitalizations and, unfortunately, deaths follow. We have seen this trend even during summer months while the public enjoys outdoor spaces. As we move indoors in the colder months, enter cold and flu season, and as the holiday season approaches, we beg that Oklahomans follow these precautionary steps to stem community spread.

The decision to urge these safety measures is driven by data and guidance from health care experts, not politics. According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, since Aug. 1, cities whose residents are wearing masks saw a 34 percent rise in cases, compared to a 109 percent percent increase in cities where residents aren’t wearing masks.

Also, Oklahomans who have COVID-19 and need hospital care are twice as likely to live in non-masking cities. As reported by MyHealth Access Network on Nov. 12, 32 percent of hospital admissions come from masking cities while 68 percent of hospital admissions come from non-masking cities.

The only tools at our disposal now are wearing a mask, keeping a safe distance and washing our hands — and we must do all three to make an impact. These measures will prevent another catastrophic surge in hospital admissions and COVID-19 deaths, but we need every Oklahoman’s help and compliance.

Please help get COVID-19 under control by doing what you can to prevent more illness and hospitalization. Support our dedicated and courageous health care staff as they continue the fight against COVID-19 for those patients who have the misfortune of becoming ill during the pandemic.

Together we can get this dangerous virus under control in Oklahoma.

Together we can get this dangerous virus under control in Oklahoma.

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