As many of the readers already know, this week Siskiyou County Public Health revealed that we have our first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Siskiyou County. While this news may have surprised some of you, most of us working in the medical field have understood that this virus has likely been present in our community for weeks and we have been making changes to our practice to prepare for the inevitable surge in critical patients. I would like to dispel some myths and reinforce some guidelines in order to better prepare our community for this pandemic.

First, please take the call for social distancing seriously. This is the single most important change we can make as a society to help slow and prevent the spread of COVID-19. There is now strong evidence that a large percentage of the population are asymptomatic carriers of the virus and can spread it without knowing. Let me repeat: you DO NOT need symptoms to spread the disease. Given this information, one must assume that we all are contagious and act accordingly if we are ever going to control this pandemic. Examples of behavior that put you or others at risk include going to friend’s house for dinner, getting in someone else’s car, or going to a meeting at work.

Second, please do not come to the Emergency Department only to be tested if you are not sick or only have mild to moderate symptoms. We are very limited on tests available, and at the time of this writing they are reserved for those critically ill who need to be admitted to the hospital or those with known close contact with a previously positive patient. Even if you have a confirmed exposure, a positive or negative test should not change your behavior as you should already be isolating. Furthermore, in order to conduct the test, your nurse will need to be fully gowned and masked in protective equipment which will continue to deplete our limited supply.

Third, it is true that the elderly are most at risk. We should be doing everything we can to protect our seniors, which means helping and reminding them to not leave the house. A very helpful task would be to go grocery shopping for them but don’t expose them by going in their home. Regular visits may need to be canceled.

The COVID-19 pandemic is going to be with us for many months, and therefore these changes are going to be necessary for likely longer than you realize. Lives will be lost and businesses will suffer, but if we all do our part, we can prevent what is an inconvenience for some of you from becoming a disaster for everyone.

* All our coverage of coronavirus is being provided free for our readers. Please consider supporting local journalism by calling our office at (530) 842-5777.