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Hospitals unite to encourage you to wear a mask


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IDAHO FALLS — A handful of hospitals in the area publicly announced their stance on wearing facemasks, and they hope their message will influence others to mask up.

The Hospital Cooperative is a group of 17 hospitals scattered throughout eastern Idaho and western Wyoming whose goal is to strengthen regional healthcare.

At their monthly board meeting nearly two weeks ago, the member hospitals agreed the public should wear facemasks to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.

“It is our position that everyone should wear a protective facemask when out in public, consistent with CDC guidelines,” a Co-op news release says.

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The executive director of the Co-op, Robert Cuoio, told he hopes their statement on mask-wearing brings people together.

“I think there’s, unfortunately, a lot of distrust that the public has in Washington, whether it’s the White House, whether it’s Dr. (Anthony) Fauci, the CDC, Congress, any of that. Inherently, there is some of that distrust,” he says. “We thought that this (message) might really hit home. This is friends talking to friends.”

Medical experts have explained that the purpose of wearing masks is to protect other people from catching the virus, rather than the wearer from contracting it.

Cuoio says wearing masks is a sign of respect for neighbors, friends and coworkers because it shows individuals are thinking of others more than themselves.

“To me, it’s a minor inconvenience just to get past this,” Cuoio says about wearing masks.

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While the Co-op’s primary focus is health care, they also want to see the local economy and school districts thrive. The news release explains that they understand the significant hardship lockdowns have on local businesses and the impact school closures have on children and families.

They want to avoid lockdowns and focus on practical solutions.

“I think sometimes people think COVID is only a big city problem, but we’re seeing some of these rural areas are getting hit hard,” Cuoio says. “We want to see our communities back to normal.”

Researchers from hospitals, universities, the private sector and government agencies have concluded that masks could be one of the most powerful and cost-effective tools to stop COVID-19 and accelerate the economic recovery.

But in order to put the pandemic in the past, Cuoio says wearing masks isn’t the only safety measure that needs to be taken.

“There is universal agreement … that masking alone will not be enough to stop the pandemic,” the news release says. “Masking is most effective when combined with physical distancing, frequent handwashing, testing and coordinated contact tracing.”

The co-op hospitals stand united on the importance of wearing masks, and the news release says their employees and visitors will be wearing them. They hope community members who aren’t wearing masks will join in and do the same.

“We don’t have ulterior motives,” Cuoio says. “These local communities, that’s what we care about.”

For more information on the Co-op, click here. More COVID-19 news can be found here.