More than 200,000 of our friends, family members, fellow citizens and front-line workers have succumbed to COVID-19 since March. To put that in context, that’s approximately the same as the population of Salt Lake City, Utah.

In truth, this number is a millstone, not a milestone. Our nation continues to struggle under the physical, social and economic weight of COVID-19, in part because it’s a new and complicated virus, but also because we as a society need to do better — a lot better — in protecting ourselves and each other.

As our joint statement with the American Medical Association and American Nurses Association reemphasized this week, “With more than 6 million COVID-positive Americans, we say again: wear your mask, wash your hands, and practice physical distancing.”

Wearing a mask … or refusing to do so … is not a political statement. But it speaks volumes about basic respect for other people. We are all in this together.

From the beginning of the pandemic, the AHA said we will fight COVID-19 similar to how we defeated previous threats to public health … by allowing science and evidence to shape our decisions and inform our actions. Be certain, regardless of the political pressures, this will not change.

By all accounts, the world’s top scientists and researchers are making rapid progress in developing a COVID-19 vaccine. And it certainly gives us hope that a safe and effective vaccine could begin to become available at the end of this year or early next year.

But we also know that a COVID-19 vaccine won’t be a magic wand — especially at the beginning. There also are a number of questions that need to be addressed related to vaccine distribution, utilization protocols, supply chain … and many other issues.

Earlier this week, we launched a new vaccine webpage to help you stay on top of the latest developments. One of the new resources includes a closer look at the federal government’s vaccine distribution strategy, and what hospitals and health systems should be doing now to prepare for a COVID-19 vaccine.

In the meantime, everyone has the power to make good decisions. Those can start with getting a flu shot so we can minimize the number of flu cases this season and not overwhelm our hospitals and health systems. 

And continue to wash your hands, keep your distance and wear a mask. Do it to protect yourself and your loved ones. Do it to protect others. And do it to honor the memory of more than 200,000 fellow citizens who are no longer with us.

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