A letter signed by thousands of University of Wisconsin Health employees asked the community to act carefully as Wisconsin continues to battle COVID-19.

UW Health hospitalist Dr. Ann Sheehy, who was a driving force behind the letter, said the letter came to be after clinical staff began planning how they were going to staff the next teams of nurses and physicians.

“We really were running out of good ideas,” Sheehy said. “We felt this sense of urgency to really reach out to the people and ask for their help, and make a plea to wear masks and social distance to see if we could get these numbers under control.”

Sheehy said if there is not a change in what the community does, the hospital will be in a “crisis situation.”

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The letter addressed Wisconsin as a family and stated that as is the case in any family, hard conversations must sometimes be held. As Thanksgiving draws near, the letter asked people to continue to fight the pandemic by avoiding large gatherings without masks which would further overflow COVID-19 hospital units.

With full hospitals, it would be more difficult to provide life-saving care to patients with not only COVID-19 but other urgent conditions like cancer or heart disease, the letter said.

The letter gave three tangible tasks to readers — avoid large gatherings, wear a mask and wash your hands. 

Sheehy said the letter echoes a message heard already from a variety of sources throughout the past few months, but she said she hopes the letter will speak with a sincerity that the Wisconsin community can resonate with more.

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“Many of us [at UW Health] are from Wisconsin,” Sheehy said. “I grew up here and I am very loyal to the people of Wisconsin … We have no political agenda in asking for people to wear masks or social distance or avoid large gatherings — we truly just want people to survive this pandemic, so our hope is that people will see honesty and community in our words.”

Sunday, Wisconsin’s number of new COVID-19 infections dropped to 3,507 new cases, the lowest number of new cases in a day since Nov. 2. No new COVID-19 deaths were reported Sunday, though over 5,000 deaths state-wide are still projected by Christmas, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.