Lehigh Valley, Pa.,
16:36 PM

LVHN’s Position on COVID-SMART Re-opening

Many community members and some elected officials have asked Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) for its position regarding the timing of reopening businesses in the community. LVHN, as a large employer, understands the complexities associated with operating businesses, both large and small – but only in the health care space. That said, we have learned several important things related to our organization and COVID-19 over the last several weeks that we feel may be relevant to Pennsylvania’s reopening.

As a hospital system that has seen far too many cases of COVID-19, we understand firsthand how to care for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients at the same time. And we appreciate the intellectual and human energy it takes to safely conduct business. In this regard, we have been forced to overcome obstacles that just two months ago we never would have considered tackling – but for the COVID-19 crisis. And, YOU have done the same. That’s why we would now like to give you, our patients and the citizens of the commonwealth, a HUGE shoutout!

Kudos to our elected leaders who made the right call, early on in this pandemic, to close nonessential businesses, to shelter in place and to aggressively promote social distancing. But, smart decisions such as these don’t mean anything if people don’t follow the rules. LVHN would like to take this moment to congratulate the remarkable citizens of our area for embracing these restrictions. YOUR smart adherence to these new standards flattened the COVID-19 growth curve in the region. Lives were saved because of YOUR actions.

As a result, while our systems were stressed, they were not overrun, and we were able to develop and execute unique treatment protocols to manage COVID-19 cases safely and with high quality – all while limiting the spread of the virus. While we are proud of our actions, the positive result is all because of the social distancing and other smart safety steps YOU took in your homes and at the grocery store and by sheltering in place and avoiding large gatherings of friends and family. While we mourn the lives that have been lost, many were saved by your actions. We sincerely thank you for your diligence in this first phase of the COVID-19 crisis. As we contemplate the reopening of business across our region and state, it will be important to remember a few critically important facts. When Gov. Tom Wolf wisely closed businesses as part of a plan to dampen the curve, we supported that decision as being the best path to protect the people of our community and all Pennsylvanians. When it comes to health, prevention is always the best medicine – on top of being smart and engaged with your treatment plan.

As this relates to reopening any business, the same strict adherence to safety and established public health practices must be employed. At LVHN, we have implemented hundreds of new safety standards in LVHN’s offices and facilities to be certain we deliver safe, uninterrupted care to our patients. These are the same smart measures that you have employed in your daily life during COVID-19 and now also must employ as you contemplate going back to work or reopening your business. Smart, aggressive and well-considered measures can limit the spread of COVID-19, even as we slowly find our way back to opening the economy. These safety measures need to be carefully implemented and monitored for strict adherence.

We encourage every business owner to diligently establish creative processes that meet the strictest standards prior to reopening his or her business. Just as our patients are depending upon us (and trusting us) to deliver safe, high-quality care, our citizenry and your customers have come to expect new levels of safety before going to a store or any place of business. COVID-19 is going to be in the community for months and months to come. If we reopen in an undisciplined manner, new cases surely will increase, and the state will be forced to make hard decisions regarding ongoing business operations – and we risk losing the gains we’ve made.

We are most fortunate that our curve has flattened, thanks to YOUR remarkably smart behavior. Given the diligence you demonstrated in the first phase of this COVID-19 crisis, we have every confidence that you will use the same good judgment when you ultimately return to work or reopen your business. At LVHN, we learned that any reopening guidance must include specific ongoing safety improvements for both employees and patients. This approach must be customized to each business that reopens. It takes time and team effort to get these processes in order and communicated to the public (your customers) before reopening. Our friends, neighbors and families’ lives are at stake.

To move forward, EVERYONE must continue to focus on being COVID-SMART: maintain frequent hand hygiene, wear masks in public, maintain social distance in all settings and stay home if you have any signs or symptoms of COVID-19. As we contemplate the reopening of Pennsylvania, we must continue our smart beginnings and build on the progress we’ve made in learning how to live with COVID-19 in our midst. You have a great track record so far, so continue to be COVID-SMART at home, at work, in the community and, when the time comes, in reopening your business.