Houston Methodist CEO to young adults: 'Come on, wear a mask'

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Health care workers on the front lines of treating COVID-19 patients are getting tired of the ongoing pandemic and a sense of complacency about becoming infected, according to one hospital administrator, and he's issued a familiar warning.

"Come on, wear a mask, Houston Methodist Hospital CEO Marc Boom said. "Why wouldn't you make that tiny little sacrifice and do that for the rest of humankind?"

Boom said he believes the behavior of adults under the age of 50 has faded from caution to complacency overall and his staff is seeing the result.

"Over the last three, four weeks, we've really seen the number of people testing positive in the Houston community really explode," Boom said. "We test across the community, something like 14-1,500 people positive every day. Thankfully, it's leveled off over the last few days. I'm hoping and praying, that's a sign of something better to come. But it's leveled off at really high levels and the preponderance of those individuals this time around are under 50. Which tells me that really, those under 50 have behaved a little differently, acted a little differently over the last month and that's part of the reason we've seen this surge."

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Texas surged past 8,000 statewide hospitalizations for the first time over the July 4th holiday weekend - a more than quadruple increase on the past month. On Tuesday, the number of hospitalizations soared past 9,000.

Deaths remain lower in Texas compared to other big states. As of Tuesday, Texas has confirmed that at least 2,715 people have died due to COVID-19. But fatalities have climbed in recent days, and in addition to an alarming acceleration in new cases in Texas, the seven-day infection rate has climbed to 13.5%.

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Boom pointed to the same message that's been sent by countless other colleagues in the health care sector. Distance, covering, and good hygiene like handwashing.

"We know what works. We know that social distancing works. We know that masking works," Boom said. "I think we're starting to see an inkling of behavior changes and the transmission is slowing down in the community, we're going to have to be prepared to continue those kinds of measures really indefinitely if we want to get to a point where we can have the economy running and coexist with COVID. And that's a really critical message for everyone to hear."

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While there's a national debate over whether masks are effective, researchers at Florida Atlantic University used a laser light sheet to visualize coughing and sneezing. The research shows that when you cough or sneeze without a face mask, droplets travel more than eight feet and can linger in the air for minutes.

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The continuing pandemic has spread fear, doubt, and even debate on everything from politics to education. It's taken its toll on more than those who've been infected with COVID-19. It's hitting health care workers hard and Boom's message to the public echoed that feeling.

"People have been working for four months caring for people with COVID. We'll cross 3000 patients today that have come into our hospital during that time," Boom said. "A bulk of that now is happening during the last three, four weeks. Even so, they're frustrated to be honest because they're watching sometimes in the community that people aren't doing the simple things they know they could do."

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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