To defeat COVID-19, we must work together.

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By David Ottati

All of us have spent the past months watching the spread of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, across the globe, and then within the United States. Now that it’s hitting us here at home, it’s vital that we work together to mitigate its spread. Only a unified, coordinated response will help us turn back the tide of this terrible disease.

With that in mind, I want to thank Gov. Ron DeSantis for recently issuing a statewide stay-at-home order. This was a difficult but necessary step that provides clarity to local leaders and residents about the seriousness of what we’re facing. A patchwork response, with each city and county making its own rules, guarantees needless further spread of COVID-19.

In the wake of Gov. DeSantis’s order, our local governments have stepped up their efforts as well. I appreciate Volusia and Flagler county leaders taking action to close our local beaches.

I was recently honored to join area leaders for a panel discussion with Volusia County manager George Recktenwald, Volusia County Health Department spokeswoman Holly Smith, AdventHealth DeLand chief medical officer Dr. Joe Smith and Halifax Health chief medical officer Dr. Margaret Crossman.

Led by Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood, we answered some of the top coronavirus questions submitted directly from community members, addressing testing criteria, explaining how the virus spreads, and highlighting the steps local organizations are taking to prepare for the potential surge of patients.

It is humbling to serve alongside these community leaders and I’m proud of the teamwork we’ve undertaken to fight this global pandemic together. However, this virus cannot be fought alone. In order to bring this to an end, we need our community to stand with us by staying apart and following social distancing guidelines.

We now know that people who are asymptomatic – people who feel fine and want to go about their lives as normal – can unknowingly spread the virus to others. That’s why we must all act as one, to protect our community and each other.

Unfortunately, we have not yet reached the peak of cases locally. Models differ, but all of them show an increase in cases in the coming weeks.

At the individual level, it’s easy to feel powerless right now. But the truth is, each of us can do our part. Here’s what you can do to make a difference:

• Shelter in place: This is essential to protecting ourselves, our loved ones and the health-care workers we all depend on. Whenever possible, stay home.

• Practice social distancing: When unable to stay home, keep at least six feet away from other people to keep the virus from spreading.

• Practice proper hygiene: We can’t say it enough -- wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and cough or sneeze into your elbow, not into the air.

• Use the appropriate health-care setting: Please only come to the emergency room if you need emergency care. Otherwise, contact your primary care physician, visit an urgent-care facility, or have a video visit.

• Know what to expect: Most cases of COVID-19 will be mild, and the appropriate treatment is self-isolation, rest and drinking plenty of fluids. If you experience more severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, seek care promptly.

• Be patient: If you do get tested for the virus, it’s important to realize test results are not immediate. We understand this is frustrating, but testing is occurring at labs around the country to handle the heavy demand

• Get informed: AdventHealth has a free Coronavirus Information Line, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 877-VIRUS-HQ. Nurses are available to answer general medical questions about COVID-19 and refer callers to the appropriate next steps. AdventHealth has also developed a website with helpful blogs and videos. This physician-approved website serves as an easy-to-navigate source of truth on COVID-19.

The coming weeks will be challenging for all of us. Let’s work together and take care of one another. Working as one, we can meet this challenge with resilience, determination and grace.

David Ottati is the President and CEO of the AdventHealth Central Florida Division – North Region, which includes operations in Volusia, Flagler and Lake counties.

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