'Mask up': Midwest governors unify in video message to combat COVID-19

It was a rare display of bi-partisan unity Tuesday on a message some Americans angrily reject.

As our region faces a new onslaught from COVID-19, seven Midwestern governors are doubling-down on commonsense precautions.

Meanwhile, an infectious disease expert in Chicago warns we have one last chance to avoid a crisis during the holiday season that begins next week.

Among the seven governors in the two-minute video were Indiana Republican Eric Holcomb and Democrats JB Pritzker of Illinois and Tony Evers of Wisconsin.

“Keep six feet apart as much as you can,” Evers said.

“Get your flu shot!” Pritzker said.

“And wash your hands regularly. And try not to share utensils,” Holcomb added.

The only female governor featured was Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer, whose anti-COVID-19 public health orders made her the target of an alleged kidnapping-murder plot that was broken up by the FBI.

The video's release comes as a deadly new surge of infections hits local hospitals. Rush University Medical Center just converted a lobby at its downtown campus into a giant, emergency triage area. Rush is also activating a surge unit with 28 extra intensive care beds. It is also postponing some elective surgeries, as is Advocate Aurora Health, to free up resources.

Experts say commonsense could save thousands of lives.

“Social isolation and social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands. These things are not expensive. And they work,” said Rush epidemiologist Dr. Bala Hota.

Hota estimates only about half of us are doing that regularly right now. If 95% to 100% of us did, we could avoid the scary, worst-case of what is coming this winter.

“I don't think it's a foregone conclusion that the winter through Christmas is going to be terrible. We can start doing the things now that, by Thanksgiving, start to reduce case count,” Hota said.

Doctors say it is especially important that the western suburbs hear this bi-partisan mask up message right now. Both Rush and Advocate Aurora Health say their hospitals in the western suburbs are getting slammed right now by COVID-19.