CINCINNATI — Gov. Mike DeWine implored people across Ohio Wednesday to wear masks in public, and local officials now say if most people heed his warning, the state could see a flattened curve in a matter of weeks.
Cincinnati Health Commissioner Melba Moore called DeWine’s call to action “a reset button” and an opportunity for Ohioans to once again flatten the curve by doing something simple: putting on a mask.
Hamilton County Health Medical Director Dr. Steve Feagins agrees, saying wearing a mask is a small nuisance that can be a big help in stopping the spread of coronavirus.
"A little inconvenience by wearing a mask can go a long way in preserving the ability to go to school, possibly play sports,” he said.
Dr. Jamelle Bowers, the regional medical director of Sound Physicians, said the initial closings of schools, businesses and other public facilities had a hand in Ohio’s initial control over coronavirus.
“Then when we went to relaxing the standards and let people come out into the community -- it’s definitely necessary for the economy -- I think that people got ‘lax with the mask wearing,” she said. “Now we’re seeing significant spread with the disease.”
Sound Physicians, which has been on the frontline of the pandemic, provides inpatient services to Mercy Health as the state sees a rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations.
“Right now we still have room. We're certainly getting more full than typically what we'd see in the summer months. We're still able to handle the capacity. It is getting concerning if we're going in the wrong direction," Bowers said.
Bowers said there's still time for Ohioans to trend around.
“(If) probably 80% of people wear masks today, we’d start to see a flattening and a decrease in the number of positive cases within a couple of weeks," she said. "The data lags behind. Based on your exposure, the time to be sick or needing hospitalization typically lags behind a few days to a couple weeks.”
Bowers also recommends leaving surgical masks to the medical professionals.
"We need them more as we do have known exposure to those patients. In the community, a cloth mask is just fine,” she said.
Though treatment has improved over the past few months, it does not stop the snowball effect. Feagins said longer stays in the hospital on top of more people coming in will lead to less resources for all.
“We’re at risk of increased transmission,” Feagins said. “We’re at risk of our hospitals getting fuller today. Our hospitals are able to stay within the current capacity. We have surge capacity listed, we haven’t had to use it yet. We don’t want to use that.”
And these healthcare workers know that masking up could help the state get closer to normal.
“If we’re able to do that in the community, I think we can still continue to do our activities as we did before. Just wear a mask," Bowers said.