The number of positive cases of COVID-19 in eastern North Carolina continues to rise. Although we have successfully flattened the curve and built capacity in our health care facilities in the east, no one knows exactly how the virus will continue to evolve. What we know now is that it is still spreading in our region and the vast majority of us are still susceptible.

Using data and science to guide decisions is critical as we move toward reopening the economy. As more people are out and about, the risk of spread increases. As a result, it is necessary for our local leaders to develop a plan designed to react quickly as increased COVID-19 cases impact our communities.

It is possible for businesses to reopen in a safe manner with proper precautions in place. Vidant Health has done this by implementing a number of important steps to ensure we are providing the safest environment possible for those we proudly serve.

As a result of tremendous efforts by team members across Vidant, we are now able to increase access to essential care and services because we have the right testing in place, the right PPE and visitor screening and restrictions to ensure we have a safe environment. We continue to monitor the virus and can make adjustments to how we deliver care. We have taken a careful and thoughtful approach with safety at the center of every decision.

We strongly encourage our local officials and business leaders to also use science and data to respond to the virus. Many are doing this, while some are not. We all need to work together at this critical time.

As decisions about reopening the economy are considered, it is important we continue to do our part to protect ourselves and the communities where we work, live and play. This includes staying at home as much as possible, wearing a mask when out in the community, avoiding large gatherings, practicing social distancing and washing hands often. These steps can stop the spread of the virus and protect all of us including friends, family members and neighbors. This fact is based on the biology of the virus and sound epidemiologic principles.

I remain grateful to Vidant team members for all they continue to do to deliver high quality care for eastern North Carolina despite the challenges we face together. I appreciate the overwhelming reaction from the community and for what you’ve done to show your appreciation, compassion and support.

It is difficult to predict when our number of COVID-19 positive cases in eastern North Carolina will peak. What we do know is that there are steps we can take to open the economy safely and there are steps we can take as individuals to protect ourselves and those we care about. We need to continue to take this virus very seriously, take the appropriate measures to ensure we remain safe and have a thoughtful plan in how we reopen.

Eastern North Carolina is resilient and I know that if we take care of each other, we will get through this together.

Michael Waldrum, M.D., is chief executive officer of Vidant Health.

Contact Bobby Burns at baburns@reflector.com and 329.9572.