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Danville, Pa. – Geisinger, along with 100 other top health care systems in the U.S. representing thousands of hospitals, is urgently pleading with Americans to mask up, because at this time wearing a facemask is the best method we have for slowing the surging COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 11.5 million Americans have tested positive for the virus – including an additional one million in just the past week. Geisinger has seen 13,644 positive tests since the spring but has seen a dramatic increase in the past 30 days, with 5,056 new positive tests. Nationwide there have been 250,000 deaths due to this virus, including more than 9,400 Pennsylvanians.

The impacts of the surging cases are being felt across central and northeastern Pennsylvania. There are more patients admitted right now to Geisinger’s nine hospitals than there were in the spring. New daily records for hospitalizations have been set since November 9 at Geisinger, with a current average of one new COVID-19 admission every hour.

The current trends are daunting and frightening. If the nation stays on its current course, hospital leaders are increasingly concerned that more healthcare facilities will be overwhelmed as shortages of healthy caregivers make it difficult to handle a rapidly increasing number of patients. Unfortunately, this is already happening in parts of our country.

The next several months will be critical. Though there has been positive news about vaccine development, no one knows when those vaccines will be ready for widespread use. In the meantime, everyone must remain vigilant, take precautions, and follow public health orders.

The country has reached a tipping point. The power to do what is right is now in the hands of everyone everywhere.

Beginning today, a public service message will run in publications from coast to coast, including local publications. Geisinger is united with these hospitals and health systems to share this message:

“As the top nationally-ranked hospitals, we know it’s tough that we all need to do our part and keep wearing masks. But, here’s what we also know: The science has not changed. Masks slow the spread of COVID-19. So, please join us as we all embrace this simple ask: Wear. Care. Share with #MaskUp. Together, wearing is caring. And together, we are saving lives.”

In an effort to reach a broader audience, the public service effort will also include messages on digital platforms, social media, online information, links to vital health resources and more. Combining resources demonstrates that these health organizations are working together, will accomplish this today, and will get through this together.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points to recent studies that have shown facemasks successfully limit spread of the COVID-19 virus. Wearing facemasks protect in key ways: by protecting the wearer against inhalation of harmful pathogens and particulates and by preventing exposure of those around the wearer.

In addition to masking, the CDC suggests that everyone minimize the number of non-household contacts, maintain a physical distance of at least six feet, and limit the amount of time around others, especially while indoors and in poorly ventilated areas. For further information about masking guidelines – how to choose a mask, how to properly wear a mask – visit the CDC website.

This story was compiled by an NCPA staff reporter from submitted news. To see a list of our editorial staff please visit our staff directory.