Editorial: Listen to health officials, doctors to help lessen the spread of COVID-19

When you're in public, please wear a mask or a face covering.

When you're around people, be sure to stay at least 6 feet from each other.

If possible, avoid big crowds or gatherings where there are many people.

Wash your hands frequently -- and use hand sanitizer when the traditional soap and water isn't handy.

As you read in our front page story today, Whitfield County has landed a spot among Georgia counties by ranking tenth in the number of cumulative, confirmed novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases. Whitfield County's dubious ranking out of 159 counties is worsened by the fact we are 25th in total population with 104,628 residents.

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health's latest statistics released Monday afternoon, Whitfield County had 3,234 cumulative, confirmed cases of COVID-19, 27 deaths attributed to the virus and 145 hospitalizations. Whitfield County has 3,088 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents; only 13 Georgia counties have a higher rate.

Murray County had 538 cumulative, confirmed cases of COVID-19, two deaths attributed to the virus and 32 hospitalizations

Statewide, there have been 195,435 cumulative, confirmed cases of COVID-19, 3,842 deaths attributed to the virus and 19,124 hospitalizations.

Our high COVID-19 numbers have many in the medical community alarmed. North Georgia Health District Director Dr. Zachary Taylor told this newspaper "... what is going on in our community is very concerning. We're having substantial transmission of COVID-19 in our community, (and) we're going to continue to see this until the community does more itself."

Last month, Taylor and Dr. Steven Paynter, a local physician who is president of the Whitfield/Murray County Medical Society, wrote a letter to the community voicing their concerns about the transmission rate in the area.

"As concerned physicians, we want to try to limit the spread of COVID-19 and still strongly support U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines of social distancing when possible, avoiding large groups, wearing masks that cover both nose and mouth, frequent hand washing and using basic common sense," they wrote.

In the past two weeks, Whitfield County's confirmed COVID-19 cases have increased by 931.

We ask that everyone follow the advice of our local, state and national public health officials and those in the medical community.

Wear your mask. Practice social distancing. Stay away from crowds. Wash your hands.

By working together, we can turn things around.

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