COVID-19 and the 3 Ws

Your Health Matters

COVID-19 stories continue to make the local, state and national news regularly, with a great deal of concern being directed to the surges and spikes in case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths in many areas. No matter what the numbers show, the consistent message of remaining vigilant with proven public health initiatives is imperative to keep out there for all to read, see, hear and follow.

Did anything work?

As of mid-July here in Washington County, there is a low prevalence of COVID-19 cases. Meritus Health has administered nearly 20,000 COVID-19 tests and of those being tested, the current positive rate for this coronavirus is below 5%.

Shaheen Iqbal, M.D., interim chief medical officer at Meritus Health, says he has no doubt that these low rates are “in no small part due to the measures we have taken as a community.”

“Wearing masks, along with following social distancing guidelines and washing hands, are an essential part of continuing to limit the spread of the virus,” says Iqbal.

Learning through the process.

Iqbal says it’s important that officials communicate the same message — keep your distance, wash your hands and wear masks.

“We should all be saying the same thing,” he says. “We must be unified.”

Throughout the pandemic, Meritus Health has had to not only react to the reality of the virus being in the community and treat those who were sick while maintaining a safe working environment for its employees, but work proactively for the future state of COVID-19 in the area.

“I think we’ve very well prepared for this virus to be a part of our new normal in health care,” says Iqbal. “We are tracking numbers daily, including the amount of personal protective equipment we have on-hand and the stats on available ventilators, critical care beds and isolation rooms at Meritus Medical Center.”

The hospital has a dedicated unit in its current space for COVID-19 patients and work is underway to increase capacity with the construction of a 15,000-square-foot addition, establishing a 20-bed, negative-pressure and ventilator-capable wing.

Can we beat this?

As reopening continues under the guidance of Maryland’s governor and state department of health, everyone has to continue to support the efforts and follow the regulations.

"Until we have it under control, we will never be safe,” says Iqbal. “Until we have a vaccine and until we have the antibodies, we will never be safe.”

Meritus Health plans to continue offering COVID-19 testing through the summer at the drive-thru screening center at Meritus Medical Plaza, 13620 Crayton Blvd., north of Hagerstown.

But testing is only one part of this effort to combat the coronavirus. Doctors and public health officials across the country continue to urge people to take the three big precautions – Wear a mask. Watch your distance. Wash your hands.

“It's currently the only way to combat the virus,” says Iqbal.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now states the evidence is clear - the more people wear face coverings, the better the chance of fighting the virus.

“And remember that whatever covers your nose and mouth works,” says Iqbal. “You breathe in and out of both of them, so anything you can use to cover both of them will work.”

Remember the three W’s – Wear a mask. Watch your distance. Wash your hands. All three together is what will get our community through this season.