As family physicians in Idaho, we are concerned about recent trends in our COVID-19 cases. Since the end of June, Idaho’s infections have surged, with a running total of over 20,000 cases as of July 31. Our state has made national news in recent weeks because our increase in cases is among the highest in the country. It is no accident that this increase coincides with the lifting of restrictions rightly put in place by Gov. Brad Little. COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire in Idaho, putting essential workers at risk, complicating our ability to send our children to school, and further straining our economy. More has to be done to control this virus and we call on all Idahoans to help.

We are family physicians because we want to be on the front lines of supporting families in Idaho. We are dedicated to diagnosing and treating you when you’re sick and helping you prevent illness when possible. The coronavirus pandemic is a vexing problem that has strained us all. But there are steps we can take to decrease this virus. We should be wearing masks at all times that 6-feet distance cannot be maintained. The science is very clear; masks reduce the spread of COVID-19 by upwards of 85 percent.

We call on all Idahoans to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and wear masks when in public. We also support a statewide mandate for mask wearing, rather than just isolating it to hot spots, since we know that rural areas in Idaho also have the lowest amount of health care resources.

There is no question that masks are uncomfortable to wear. But that discomfort pales in comparison to the impact we can make on COVID-19. To put it bluntly, wearing a mask is a better option than needing a ventilator.

By wearing a mask you demonstrate that you care about your fellow Idahoans, and particularly the elderly and immunosuppressed. Do you want to be responsible for giving coronavirus to your parent or grandparent who may not survive?

We should do what we can to save lives, open schools, get people back to work and improve our economy. When we share the story of how we made it through this pandemic, we want to tell our loved ones that our communities came together and did the best we could using the things we all can control.

As family physicians, we care about our patients, their families, and the communities we all live in. We care about this state, its schools, businesses, and churches. Please join us in doing all we can to keep each other safe. Wear a mask. Be part of the solution! It might just keep someone you love around long enough to look back at these times and be proud of how we all made it through this unprecedented time.

This column was submitted by the Idaho Academy of Family Physicians Board of Directors, which includes Cher Jacobsen, MD, president of the board; Suzanna Hubele, MD; Mary Barinaga, MD; Boyd Southwick, MD; Ted Epperly, MD; and Angie Devitt, MD. The Idaho Academy of Family Physicians is a nonprofit organization representing hundreds of family physicians across Idaho. Its mission is to advocate for Idaho family physicians and their patients.