In the last few weeks, I’ve had to tell my kids their birthday parties are canceled. They’re bored at home. They’re sad they are not able to go to swim team practice. They’re disappointed they can’t have sleepovers with their friends.

I really hate this for my kids, but it is the right thing to do. We all have to make sacrifices to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our community. We have to help “flatten the curve.”

As a physician, I see the large number of people still out and about — parking lots are full, roads are congested, and social media is full of group photos. This is worrisome. At this point, we have no defense against the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 other than social distancing. Unfortunately, people seem to be doing the opposite.

The benefit of social distancing is two-fold. We can prevent the spread of the disease, which is critical for vulnerable populations, and we can avoid inundating our health care system with too many patients at one time, thus “flattening the curve.” We all have a role to play.

As a community, we need to assume COVID-­19 or the corona­vi­rus is here and there are people carrying and transmit­ting the virus while showing no symptoms of their own.

They are walking around seemingly healthy, while spreading the virus to people who may not fare as well. This is why we need to follow the CDC’s guidelines to put distance, at least six feet, between yourself and others and avoid gathering in crowds. This is the most responsible thing to do.

The other reason we should be practicing social distancing is to protect the health care system that cares for patients.

If we have several people getting very ill at the same time, our resources will be stretched too thin. We already are seeing this happen in some U.S. communities.

If we can decrease how many patients need treatment at one time, more of our friends, neighbors and family members will survive COVID-19. This is why social distancing is so important.

You know, my kids are sad. They are adjusting to a new normal where life is different and primarily based at home, but home is the safest place we can be right now. We all must make sacrifices. Join me in practicing social distancing. Stay home. Flatten the curve.

In the meantime, I am purchasing gift cards from our favorite local stores for the kids’ birthdays and picking up takeout from our favorite restaurant to celebrate.

Allison Cardin, M.D., a Hardin County native, is a specialist in urology/robotic surgery with Hardin Memorial Health and chief-elect of the HMH medical executive committee. She can be reached at acardin@hmh.net.

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