Leaders of the area's four largest hospital systems warned of future business closings if COVID-19 cases "slip far out of our control" and urged citizens to recommit to personal health precautions in a joint statement issued Monday.
Reginald Coopwood, president and CEO of Regional One Health; Jason Little, president and CEO of Baptist Memorial Health Care; Michael Ugwueke, president and CEO of Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare; and Sally Deitch, Memphis market president and CEO, of Saint Francis Hospital – Memphis and Saint Francis Hospital – Bartlett all signed onto what was presented as an op-ed piece.
They said choices made by Memphis-area residents will determine the weeks and months ahead for the pandemic here. The choices will also determine "our facilities' ability to cope with the convergence of the seasonal flu and rapidly rising cases of COVID-19."
"We know you’re tired," reads the statement. "But we cannot give up. We want you to know that we are still here for you and will never back down from our mission of keeping you safe and healthy. But, we need you to do your part to slow the virus and help our hospitals meet this moment."
The leaders asked citizens to wear masks, wash their hands, and practice social distancing to help "us bring down caseloads, ease suffering, and even save lives." These things work to slow the virus' spread, they said. For proof, they pointed to summertime reductions in new Tennessee cases (56 percent) and hospitalizations (38 percent) over six weeks when masks and social distancing were widespread.
Shelby County Health Department/Facebook
The health precautions will help vulnerable friends and family who may suffer from chronic conditions. They'll also help frontline healthcare workers, the leaders said. But they will also help the Memphis economy more broadly.
"Our local economy also needs you," they said. "If case levels slip far out of our control, we can expect a repeated cycle of opening and closing that will further damage many industries and businesses, and permanently close others.
"The small, local businesses that are the backbone of our economy are likely to be affected disproportionately."
The healthcare officials ended the statement with a promise.
"The finish line is just around the corner — but the virus wins if we give up," they said.