Physicians across North Texas have united to promote scientifically-based information in the face of disunity between public officials and the barrage of conflicting information about the COVID-19 pandemic. Leaders in the Collin-Fannin, Dallas, Denton, Grayson, and Tarrant Medical Societies have formed the North Texas Medical Society Coalition (NTMSC), which is now one of the largest COVID-19 alliances in the southern United States.
It’s an unprecedented initiative. The public conflicts between regional authorities have created confusion, with county judges, mayors, and the governor often trading barbs along political lines rather than scientific ones. The coalition hopes to counteract the confusion and aggregate medically-sound information for its 11,500 physicians and their patients.
Before the coalition began, leaders had been participating in statewide virtual meetings to plan for the pandemic and keep physician members educated on the latest developments. Now they are officially uniting to reach a larger population.
“It is becoming increasingly difficult for the public to wade through a large amount of information coming rapidly from different sources and to determine what is accurate, what is important, and what is applicable to North Texas and individual families and businesses. Physicians are best positioned to use our knowledge and experience to provide recommendations that the public can trust,” says Dallas County Medical Society President-elect, Dr. Beth Kassanoff via release.
North Texas is a mobile population that’s suffered more than 9,000 COVID-19 cases. Residents live in one county and work and shop in another while having friends and family in yet another. Famously, neighboring residents in Dallas County are maintaining social distancing while Collin County’s are not. The different rules and regulations in each county have created medical chaos.
Kassanoff has been part of the coalition meetings, and stressed the importance of unified and scientifically backed messaging as the economy opens up. The group’s primary focus now is the continuation of social distancing. Abandoning, she says, could result in increased infection rates and more pressure on the health system. “Just like everybody else, we want businesses to reopen, but our biggest concern is the health of our community,” she says.
Most experts say that two weeks of decreasing cases will indicate when it is safer to reopen the economy, but that hasn’t happened in North Texas. “We need to continue physical distancing to protect other people around us,” Kassanoff says. “If people bear with it for a little bit longer and keep up with those things, we will get there.”
Kassanoff, who is an internist at Baylor University Medical Center, emphasized the importance of the high-impact protective practices and the need for continued access to healthcare for those with chronic conditions and in need of vaccines. Part of the communication to the public is that physicians offices are safe to visit. “I understand why people are fearful of going into doctors’ offices or hospital settings, but they are working extremely hard to make them a safe place.”
Kassanoff also wants to encourage vulnerable people to stay home, even from the grocery store or pharmacy regardless of relaxed regulations at the county and the state level. As time passes, she says the coalition will try and tackle one issue at a time and spread the word. “We want to target something of importance to us and stick with the physical distancing.”
“The public will be able to say this group is evidence-based, fact-based,” Kassanoff says. “We just want people to be healthy. Don’t let up the fight yet. We have a long way to go with this.”