As hospitals approach reach capacity and COVID cases rise, the leaders of Massachusetts' biggest health care organizations called on residents to take five steps ahead of the holidays.
The CEOs of eight hospitals health care systems and the state's hospital association wrote the message at "a crisis point" for the industry, they said.
"The good news is that we have the tools to turn the tide, but it will take a team effort. It will take a renewed sense of diligence and responsibility from everyone who calls Massachusetts home," they said.
Get the latest news on COVID-19 delivered to you. Click here to sign up for our weekly coronavirus newsletter.
Get Boston local news, weather forecasts, lifestyle and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Boston’s newsletters.
Their "urgent plea" involves the following:
- Getting vaccinated against COVID and the flu, including booster shots when possible.
- Always wearing a mask in public and when it's not possible to social distance.
- Getting tested for COVID both when residents develop symptoms and when they have close contact with someone else who's tested positive.
- Not delaying regularly scheduled medical appointments: "we are we are now seeing the devastating effects of delayed care from the first waves of the pandemic," the health care leaders wrote.
- Going to a primary care physician or urgent care center when issues arise that aren't emergencies.
Following that guidance will help Massachusetts communities, including sick people who need hospital beds and their caregivers on the front lines.
"Thank you for your ongoing support of our hospitals and health systems and the lifesaving work our providers do every day," said the health care leaders, members of the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association's Expanded Executive Committee, which includes the heads of Mass General Brigham, Beth Israel Lahey Health and UMass Memorial Health.
COVID isn't the only issue stressing the health care industry. It's also facing a major staffing shortage, one that's prompted some states to call in their national guard or request federal help as the latest wave of the pandemic surges across the U.S.
On Tuesday, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health directed hospitals to postpone or cancel all nonessential, elective procedures that likely require patients to be admitted starting on Monday, Dec. 27.
The message from the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association committee leaders also comes a day after Gov. Charlie Baker issued a mask advisory for the state, which likewise recommended -- but did not require - masking in public.