The shoe has dropped in the Wiregrass area, with the state Department of Public Health confirming the area’s first coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in a patient at Southeast Health on Wednesday morning.
It was inevitable, and should by no means suggest that the virus just arrived. Health officials expect the number to rise simply because an increase in testing will provide a better picture of the breadth of infection locally. That will be a national phenomenon, too; the United States has lagged behind with regard to the availability of testing supplies for weeks. Now that testing for the virus has become more efficient, health officials expect the number of cases to spike, skewing the curve for U.S. infections by identifying several weeks of specimens within the next 24 to 48 hours.
That underscores the message we keep hearing from officials suggesting that residents stay calm and practice common-sense guidelines — wash hands frequently, stay at home if possible, limit gathering to fewer than 10 people, and remember “social distancing” by maintaining a 6-foot buffer.
There will be more cases in the coming weeks. Hospitals are preparing for them, creating a number of quarantine rooms to be available when needed. The community is preparing as well: Movie theatres have closed; many churches have suspended on-site worship, moving services to web-based platforms; restaurants and retailers have adapted their business models to accommodate recommendations from health officials.
The Dothan Eagle has adapted as well, making coronavirus news available without charge on our website and offering a free daily newsletter to keep readers up-to-date on the emerging coronavirus situation. Sign up at https://www.dothaneagle.com/newslettersignup/.
Perhaps our greatest challenge ahead will be coping with the disruption to our routines that accompanies the important changes necessary to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.