A lot has happened over the last few days and it is important that we take a minute to consider the reasoning behind the recent closures and other precautionary decisions that have been made in our community.

At Harbin Clinic, the health and safety of our patients is our top priority. We have been working closely with the Georgia Department of Public Health and following the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control in making decisions about our response to concerns over coronavirus COVID-19.

This same careful consideration has factored into decisions throughout the community, but many questions have arisen about whether calls for school closures, canceled events and recommendations that employees work from home are premature.

We have learned a lot from studying how this virus has progressed in other parts of the world and are fortunate to benefit from such hindsight. In other affected areas, failure to mitigate against the spread of this infection has resulted in the healthcare system being overwhelmed and therefore unable to meet the healthcare needs in those communities. We want to take prudent steps to slow the spread, protect the vulnerable, and ensure your healthcare professionals are able to provide for the needs of our communities throughout northwest Georgia.

Some of you may have seen a graph projecting the number of active cases over time compared to the capacity of healthcare resources. The steps we are taking across our communities are designed to “flatten the curve”. You may have heard this term used in discussions about coronavirus, but may not be clear about what it means. Past experience has shown that failure to take appropriate precautionary measures can result in a dramatic spike in the number of cases occurring in a short period of time. Such a spike very quickly overwhelms the medical community, which means that patients are less likely to receive the supportive care they need to recover.

When precautionary measures are activated early, as we are seeing in our area, the spread is slowed and the number of cases is reduced. Fewer cases means more rapid recovery and a reduction in the inadvertent spread to others. Preventative steps may seem extreme, but they will reduce the spread of the virus in a way that keeps the community healthy and allows for better care for those who are ill.

Trends around the world have shown that this virus is highly contagious and that many people can act as carriers with little to no discernible symptoms, which can dramatically increase the spread of germs to more vulnerable people. A limited ability to test people fast enough to determine the exact reach makes community-wide containment critical.

School closures, event postponement and other recommendations for social distancing are the most effective way to reduce the spread of the virus and keep the community as healthy and safe and possible, while allowing for better care.

In times such as these, we must put the needs of others ahead of our own self interest. We must work together to keep our whole community safe.

Some things to remember as we navigate the next few weeks include:

♦ Even if you or your family do not feel sick, you could be carrying the germs. Be careful about spending time around the elderly or those with an otherwise weakened immune system.

♦ Consider ways that you and your family can reduce your time in public. While it is sad to see sports, school and other activities canceled or postponed, the benefit of eliminating the potential for the spread of germs is invaluable. Keep that in mind as you plan activities for the coming week.

♦ Stay in touch with news developments and follow recommendations. Things are changing quickly as this situation evolves and it is important to stay informed.

♦ Follow guidelines for good hygiene, including washing hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds and avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth.

♦ Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw it away.

A cooperative effort between community members and healthcare providers can ensure that we come through this event with happier and healthier results. Visit our website at harbinclinic.com/coronavirus, as well as, www.cdc.gov to stay up to date with developments in the fight against this illness.

Dr. Charles Edward McBride is the chief medical officer at Harbin Clinic.

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