As coronavirus hospitalizations reach record-breaking highs, 100 hospital systems from every state in the country have come together to release a sobering public service announcement asking people to wear masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
The wordless ad features stark text over scenes of medical workers on the front lines during the pandemic. A version of the announcement will also appear in major newspapers across the country and on social media.
"You’ve called us heroes, but heroes don’t deserve this," reads the ad. "We’ve fought hard to protect our communities. Month. After. Month. Our shields are worn. Our resolve is being tested. Yet we press on because we truly want to see this pandemic end. We put our lives on the line daily to keep you safe. So do something for us. Wear. A. Mask."
Dr. Tomislav Mihaljevic, chief executive officer of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, told TODAY that he hopes the ad will remind viewers and readers to wear a mask as the pandemic intensifies.
"Our shared hope is that we are going to bring an increased awareness about the importance of wearing a mask, so that we can protect one another and protect our fellow caregivers," Mihaljevic said. "We're all witnessing obviously the worsening of the pandemic, and we believe that we have a shared responsibility to alert the public about an effective way to diminish the spread of the disease."
"What we're seeing right now is that the surge is actually happening mostly in the settings outside of work, outside of schools," he said. "It's happening in family gatherings or gatherings with friends, where people do not use the universal precautions, like distancing, mask wearing and hand hygiene. ... Now the disease is spreading faster than ever before."
"People really need to wear a mask, and they need to wear it properly," Mihaljevic continued. "And they need to distance and to wear a mask outside of public venues, outside of public transportation, outside of their workplaces."
Having so many hospitals come together to stand behind a single public service announcement is "truly inspirational," Mihaljevic said, but he hopes it shows just how dire the situation is.
"To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time ever that all major health care systems in the United States have joined forces between a public health campaign to improve the health of all Americans," he said. "It is unprecedented in scope, it is unprecedented in rapidity ... And that just tells you how strongly all of us feel about the importance of masking."