Viewpoint: No need to clap for healthcare workers — just wear a mask

Jeremy Rose, MD, remembers what 7 p.m. in April once sounded like in New York: city residents rushing to fire escapes and balconies with pots and pans, clapping and cheering on front-line healthcare workers as they ended their shifts. 

The celebrations have subsided, in New York and elsewhere, although the risks healthcare workers face have not. In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Dr. Rose says there's another way for Americans to show appreciation right now: wear a mask. 

"The cheering has stopped. But that does not mean the risk to us has abated. Far from it. The lockdowns have eased, and yet in much of the country the numbers have surged, and more of us are dying," writes Dr. Rose. 

He notes that the Kaiser Family Foundation, in a project with The Guardian, is publishing obituaries of healthcare workers who have died of COVID-19. "They're up to 782, a startlingly high figure that most likely underestimates a terrible reality."

Although cases of COVID-19 are surging in several states, masking is not yet treated as a universal standard for infection prevention. Dr. Rose points to pooled data from The Lancet that shows rates of infection to be almost five times higher for people who did not wear masks. "If you're waiting for evidence that these measures work, you needn't wait any longer."

"Healthcare workers continue to die fighting for all of our lives. We all have to assume some responsibility for slowing the spread of this disease. You don't have to clap. But wear a mask. My life and the lives of my colleagues across the country depend on it," Dr. Rose writes.

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