By: Marcus Blackstone, MD, and Wendell James, MD

As we face the possibility of higher COVID-19 infection rates going into fall, we all need to take simple but immediate steps to keep our communities and ourselves safe. Bon Secours St. Francis - Greenville and Prisma Health—Upstate have partnered on a public health campaign to reinforce to the Upstate community to keep our guard up against COVID-19.

We must unite in our efforts to protect ourselves and one another from this virus, for which there is currently no vaccine and no cure. At this time, the best possible weapons in stopping this invisible threat are also the easiest – wear a mask, follow social distancing guidelines and wash your hands.

These vital public health measures are particularly important now. COVID-19 continues to hit all parts of the United States, with the death toll now exceeding 200,000. We know that our own community is not exempt from this pandemic. In Greenville County, and throughout South Carolina, the number of positive COVID-19 cases continues to grow and remains a cause for concern. 

Statewide, there have been more than 151,000 cases of confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19, with approximately 3,400 reported deaths. Nationally, infectious disease experts are warning that COVID-19 infection rates could increase as we go into cooler weather because more people will be confined in indoor spaces and be more apt to spread infection.

If we’re not careful, this could be further fueled by the upcoming flu season and by communities letting their guard down.

We cannot let our guard down.

It’s critical we all come together now, right now, to bring down our COVID-19 infections as we head into the fall season. 

Here are some guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for social distancing, masking and hand hygiene:

  • Wear a mask whenever you visit a public indoor space.
  • Wear a mask when you’re outdoors and unable to maintain a safe social distance of at least six feet from those who are not part of your household.
  • When in larger gatherings, please be sure to social distance, wear a mask, and practice good hand hygiene.
  • Avoid masks with valves and gaiter masks. They don’t provide adequate protection; cloth or medical procedure masks are better choices.
  • Most children age 2 and older can wear a mask safely.
  • Wash your hands often throughout the day for at least 15 seconds. Use a hand sanitizer that’s at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Remember that some people without symptoms may be able to spread virus.
  • Put 6 feet of distance between yourself and people who don’t live in your household.

Our public health campaign will include social media, radio and digital billboards to help spread the word about how not to spread the COVID-19 virus.

As clinical leaders of the major healthcare systems in Greenville, and on behalf of all of our community’s essential medical workers – including the thousands of doctors, nurses and employees who’ve shown their commitment to our safety, health and well-being throughout our health systems – we urge you to take these extra steps to help keep our communities safe and reduce the painful scenes we witness in our facilities each day due to this awful virus.

Help save lives of people you know – as well as people you don’t know – by taking these simple steps. Together, we can overcome COVID-19. We’re all together, 864.

Marcus Blackstone, M.D., is chief clinical officer of Bon Secours St. Francis - Greenville. Wendell James, M.D., is chief clinical officer of Prisma Health—Upstate. Together, they have provided medical care to the Upstate for more than 50 years.