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Letter to the Editor: Michael Hinds, MD

Dear Weakley County Neighbors,
As you know, COVID-19 has flared in our county. We have had almost as many new confirmed cases in the past two weeks as in the previous entire period of this pandemic. We have experienced our first death. Nearby counties Obion and Dyer have also experienced an uptick in cases with severe illness.
What has caused our COVID-19 numbers to increase so much here and in other areas of the country? Some have blamed more testing, but this cannot explain the increased hospitalizations and ICU bed usage that we are experiencing. The real problem is our behavior. We know what is required to control this public health menace, but we are not doing it. We have opened up our economies but have not done so safely. Europe, which has an overall population roughly twice that of the United States, has opened up also but has one-tenth the cases that we do.
What are we to do? The measures we need to take are straightforward and have not changed a lot since the last three letters I have written to you. First, social distancing is crucial. Six feet is a minimum distance by which we should separate, more if we are inside and talking. Second, wearing a mask is also very important. We project aerosol into the air when we breathe or talk. The mask limits the amount of this aerosol that we project. If we are infected with the coronavirus, our aerosol will contain this virus. However, masks, alone, will not fully protect us. We must also socially distance. Third, we must avoid gathering with people who do not belong to our immediate households, particularly indoors. If gatherings must take place, masks and social distancing are essential. Fourth, we must wash our hands thoroughly and often. The overwhelming majority of scientists and public health officials who work in the area of infectious disease control believe that these measures, if carried out by most of us, would get our COVID-19 caseload back in check and keep it there.
These measures are straight forward, but not easy. If we are going to change our behaviors, we will have to grow in character. We will need the wisdom to know what to change and the courage to carry out the changes. We will need patience and perseverance as we will have to carry out these measures until an effective vaccine or treatment is developed. Love for our family members and neighbors is needed to motivate us to make these changes in our behavior. We need faith that though the challenge is great, God is with us. We can hope that this COVID-19 pandemic will make us a better people.
The choice is ours. We can continue our current practices. If we take that route, more will die and our way of life will continue to be severely disrupted. Our economy will surely feel this effect. Or, we can change our behavior and save many from severe illness and death. At the same time, we can make it possible to resume some of the activities that we miss so much and that cannot be restarted safely with our current increasing infection rate. Our economy will also surely feel this.
Thank you again, and it is a privilege to be your neighbor. Together, we can do this.
Michael Hinds, MD

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