March 16, 2020

What a difference a week makes. Just last week we were planning to attend the boys and girls Division III hockey finals. Now, not only have the championship games been postponed, many large gatherings across the State and region are being put on hold. Just yesterday, Governor Sununu announced state-wide school closures and a shift to remote learning. As this very fluid issue has developed, the realization of the need for prudent, preventative actions has become apparent. Most importantly, everyone in the community can contribute to the community’s well-being by being diligent in practicing widely published actions like handwashing and social distancing to inhibit the spread of the virus.

“Social Distancing” is likely the single most effective action we can take to “Flatten the Curve” as it has been described widely in the media. The primary goal of flattening the curve is to reduce the peak number of infections. If the peak is allowed to develop unfettered in the U.S. and in our Berlin-Gorham community, it could overwhelm our healthcare system. This is what has happened in Italy. In the US, the hoarding that has led to empty shelves in stores, is not unlike what can happen to the limited capacity of our local healthcare system. We are used to having access to healthcare when we need it. If there is a significant spread of the COVID-19 virus in our community, it could lead to healthcare not being able to respond to all of the need that develops. If we, as a community, take the prudent actions that are prescribed to reduce the rate of community spread of the virus, it will be a caring act for all members of the community.

The public should know that there has been a lot of inter-agency communication taking place over the last several weeks as we have developed our response to this health challenge. Agencies include but are not limited to Coos County Family Health Services and Androscoggin Valley Hospital, Berlin and Gorham Schools, the Chamber of Commerce, volunteer organizations, United Way, the City of Berlin, the Town of Gorham and others. These agencies will continue to communicate and we will publish information online and in the paper as needed.

Over the coming days, there will be more closures of public events. This reduction in social activities will impact members of the community, in particular, our senior members, who rely on gatherings of their social groups for contact and support, will find the lack of contact difficult. Please keep our seniors in mind and provide assistance when you can while keeping everyone within your radius safe.

Our collective goal is to make sure coronavirus is only a great big inconvenience instead of coronavirus becoming a tragedy, as is happening in Italy before our eyes.

Finally, if you think you or a loved one may have contracted the virus, please contact your healthcare provider by phone so that they can direct you on what actions to take. Secondly, if you have any questions and don’t know who to call locally, please call 211. This is a statewide informational hotline available to help connect you with the state or local resources you may need.

As Ben Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This could not be truer than it is right now. This community has overcome many challenges. Together, with compassion, we will overcome this one.

Respectfully,

Jim Wheeler, City Manager

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