BUFFALO, N.Y. — Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center is among 100 of the nation’s top health care systems, representing thousands of hospitals in communities across the U.S., that have come together with an urgent plea for all Americans: mask up, because wearing a facemask is our best chance at slowing the surging COVID-19 pandemic now.

More than 11 million Americans have tested positive for the virus — including an additional 1 million in just the past week — leading to 245,000 deaths. In the Buffalo area alone, more than 900 people have died from the virus, and in recent weeks every day brings a new record total for new cases.

“Nothing is more important right now, across the whole country,” said Candace S. Johnson, PhD, President/CEO and the M&T Bank Presidential Chair in Leadership at Roswell Park. “We know that masks are incredibly effective at reducing risk and controlling the spread of COVID-19, and we need to be able to count on one another to take this small but powerful step to benefit ourselves, our families and our communities. The decisions we make today have the power to save lives — or endanger them.”

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 The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times. Additionally, hospitals and health systems across the country will continue to unite to share these messages regionally.

The message reads:

“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.”

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