197 Sask. doctors sign open letter asking businesses to do more to stop coronavirus spread
'We would not ask this of you if we thought there was any other way,' the letter says
"Please, we beg you, join us in battling this disease."
Almost 200 doctors have signed an open letter to Saskatchewan businesses calling on them to stop all person-to-person interactions.
The provincial government declared a state of emergency on Wednesday due to the coronavirus pandemic. It came after the number of COVID-19 cases in the province doubled from eight to 16 in one day.
The state of emergency closed "high-risk" businesses — such as gyms, fitness studios, casinos, bingo halls — but the open letter calls on the Saskatchewan business community to go further.
Some businesses have proactively closed their storefronts and instead are focusing on take-out or delivery services.
"This will be a painful but necessary way to prevent community transmission of COVID-19," the letter said. "The downstream impact of early action by our business community will save lives and give our healthcare system a fighting chance."
"We just need people to step up and do absolutely everything they can to make a difference right now," Dr. Paul Masiowski, a neurologist and one of the authors of the letter, said.
Masiowski said the virus is going to spread rapidly when it gets into the community due to exponential growth. He said it hasn't happened yet, so right now is when people can make significant changes in the future of the virus.
"I understand that people have their own interests, they have their own plans, they have projects on the go and bills to pay. And none of this is easy," he said. "It's a sad situation."
Masiowski said he's not threatening anyone to close or pointing fingers, but instead appealing to them to take the right steps.
"If we can do anything today, in March, that will be thankful for having done two months from now, we should," he said. "The time is running out. It's time to act now."
The letter has a total of 197 doctors who signed from Saskatoon, Regina, North Battleford, Rosthern, Humboldt, Swift Current, Tisdale, Prince Albert, Martensville, Weyburn and Stony Rapids.
The letter says the doctors are grateful to those who have taken measures already to limit the spread of the virus and hope the provincial and federal governments support them and their employees in a potentially long disruption.
"COVID-19 is here and we cannot wait any longer," the letter said.
Doctors are looking to the countries it has already hit to see how it spreads and work to slow it, the letter said.
"This disease is unique in that no matter what we do as health-care providers, we will be overrun without your help," the letter said. "Now, more than ever, we are in this together."