[Note: This op-ed was spearheaded by Florida Blue CEO Pat Geraghty; more than 130 top executives from across the state added their names to the piece in a show of support.]
The COVID-19 virus is testing our resolve, and the numbers here in Florida tell an extremely concerning story. By every key metric, our state has recently been reaching record levels on an almost daily basis. These include the number of new COVID-19 cases, and the percentage of those tested for COVID-19 who are positive. Our hospitalization rates are alarming. Since March 1, Florida has reported more than 400,000 COVID-19 total cases and over 5,500 deaths.
As leaders serving Florida, we are urgently asking our community to join us in renewing our commitment to following safety guidelines, recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to stop the spread of COVID-19 and prevent more people from getting infected, becoming sick or unfortunately even dying. We all need to take personal responsibility to do the right thing for ourselves and one another to avoid our community experiencing an even more severe impact from COVID-19 like we have seen in other parts of our country.
The most effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to avoid being exposed in the first place. There are simple steps we can take to effectively reduce the risk of transmission and turn the tide in our community.
- Wear a mask when you’re outside of your home. Wearing masks should not be a controversial or a divisive issue. Masks can help save lives, just like seatbelts, traffic lights and life vests. Multiple studies show that individuals with no symptoms or mild symptoms can transmit the virus to others. But wearing simple cloth masks can stop more than 90% of the droplets that transmit the virus.
- Practice social distancing. Where possible, keep at least six feet between you and other people outside your home. Remember, even people who do not appear sick can still spread the virus to you if you are too close. Avoiding close proximity to other people will help to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.
- Wash hands frequently. Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in public or blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, can help stem the spread. If soap and water is not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes with unwashed hands.
- Avoid the Three Cs. The World Health Organization has recommended avoiding “crowded” places with many people nearby, “close” contact settings where people have close range conversations, and “confined,” enclosed places with poor ventilation. If you do make the decision to gather with others, it is much safer to do so outdoors rather than indoors.
In addition to these important preventative measures, there are ways for those who have contracted and fully recovered from COVID-19 to help combat the virus. Individuals who fully recover have antibodies to the disease that researchers believe can potentially help people with severe COVID-19 fight the virus. If you fall within this category, talk to your primary care physician about whether donating convalescent plasma through your local blood donation center is an option for you. We know these tactics to fight COVID-19 work because we have seen them successfully deployed here in Florida and in other states and countries. Spikes like those we are experiencing have been overcome through concerted efforts that adhere to proven approaches.
We are leaders from business, community organizations, and health care and academic institutions. Our perspective is based solely on research and science. Our role is to help guide and protect the public health and well-being of our community.
Working together, we can take simple but important steps to protect one another and bring the virus under control throughout Florida. Feeling safe and being safe will be the cornerstones of our economic recovery as health and prosperity are inextricably linked. Now more than ever, our collective actions will dictate our shared future.
(More than 130 executives around the state, in categories ranging from tourism and health care to professional sports and nonprofits, signed off on this piece. In addition to Pat Geraghty, president and CEO of Florida Blue, several South Florida executives added their names to this op-ed. Here are some of those executives.)
- Maria C. Alonso, CEO, United Way of Miami-Dade
- Colin Brown, Chairman, JM Family Enterprises, Inc.
- Kathleen Cannon, President & CEO, United Way of Broward County
- Michael T. Fay, Principal, Managing Director-Miami, Avison Young
- Michael A. Finney, President & CEO, Miami-Dade Beacon Council
- Julio Frenk, President, University of Miami
- Laurie George, President & CEO, United Way of Palm Beach County
- Joseph Iannotti, Interim CEO & President, Cleveland Clinic Florida
- John Kelly, President, Florida Atlantic University
- Keith Koenig, CEO, City Furniture
- Paul Leone, CEO, The Breakers Hotel
- Carlos A. Migoya, President & CEO, Jackson Health System
- Mark B. Rosenberg, President, Florida International University
- Gino R. Santorio, President & CEO Broward Health
- Kelly Smallridge, President & CEO, Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, Inc.
- Bob Swindell, President & CEO, Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance
- Eric Woolworth, President of Business Operations, Miami Heat
- Sam Zietz, President & CEO, TouchSuite