By Pam Zubeck

If people won’t take it upon themselves to help suppress the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, perhaps they’ll listen to a Penrose Hospital emergency room doctor, an oncology nurse from UCHealth, a mom with an immunocompromised child, a nursing home worker, a retired Army soldier, a paralympian, a business owner and a pastor.

At least that’s the hope of Colorado Springs and El Paso County Public Health officials as the virus spreads across the country, with some states marking in recent days the highest numbers yet for new cases of COVID-19.

Colorado’s numbers have remained more moderate, but they’re still on the rise.

Officials, including Mayor John Suthers, a Republican, launched the #MaskUpCOS campaign this month, hoping to stem the spread of a disease for which there is no treatment and no cure — a disease that’s claimed 1,475 lives in Colorado, including 121 in El Paso County. The virus has killed more than 127,000 people across the United States — more than the entire population of Pueblo.

Check out the latest number of cases in El Paso County.

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The MaskUpCOS campaign will rely on social media, other media, editorial pitches and video and tell stories of local residents at risk or those at risk of infecting others.

As city spokesperson Jamie Fabos said in a news release: “There’s been so much information out there about infection rates, hospitalization rates, shifting data, that the whole pandemic has started to feel really sterile and impersonal. But we know the impacts of this virus are actually the exact opposite.”

She added that the spokespersons chosen to make pleas to the public include local residents.

“We’ve been sending the message that wearing a mask may not be about protecting yourself, but if you are able to reduce the risk for just one person — you could have a much bigger impact than you know,” Dr. Robin Johnson, Medical Director for El Paso County Public Health, said in a release.

“Also, when you look at our spokespeople, it should strike you that they don’t look vulnerable or unhealthy, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t, or that they don’t have contact with those at very high risk.”

“My colleagues need for you to help us prevent the spread,” Dr. Michael Roshon said during a news conference on June 26.

Suthers, who consistently wears a mask in public, warned citizens that it’s impossible to know who’s at risk of becoming a COVID victim and who might be a spreader of the disease, but it’s up to everyone to help the community stay safe “in these uncertain times,” he said.

“We’re prioritizing this messaging in an effort to protect our community,” he said, reminding people that state and county public health officials as well as those with the federal Centers for Disease Control say masks provide a layer of protection for those around you.

While someone might not feel sick, they can be a carrier of the disease and not know it; by not wearing a mask, they run the risk of spreading the disease, health officials have said.

El Paso County Coroner Dr. Leon Kelly, who also serves as deputy director of Public Health, said there’s no secret of how to stop the spread.

“Very simple: wash your hands, don’t gather in large groups, stay home when you’re sick and wear the mask,” he said.

 

 

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