The City of Apalachicola is working hard to help citizens during the the coronavirus emergency.


Our community has recovered from many disasters, and we will again. But this challenge is different.


The virus is invisible, more contagious than the common flu, and even people with no symptoms can infect others. And while it’s true that many coronavirus patients recover quickly, it can be deadly for senior citizens and other groups.


That’s the bottom line for Apalachicola – we have many seniors and people with serious underlying health conditions. So when we follow guidance from the governor, the president, and health experts, it’s to protect our most vulnerable citizens.


Consider Weems Memorial Hospital. If there were five virus patients who needed critical care at one time, the doctors and nurses at Weems could handle that.


But what would happen if our area had 25 or 50 cases? Weems could be overwhelmed. If the virus spreads here like it is spreading in Italy right now, Tallahassee and Panama City might not have available hospital beds.


On March 14 the U.S. had 2,800 cases; by March 22 there were more than 33,000.


Remember that all the sacrifices we make today are for a good reason. Italy suffered 793 coronavirus deaths in one day last week – and they have a population of just 60 million people.


We’re fighting to stop that kind of death toll. That’s why restaurants, schools, and beaches have closed.


Here’s another key point to remember. If we wait for hospital cases to show up in Apalachicola before we take action, we waited too long.


That was the message I got last week during a White House conference call for thousands of local officials. Vice President Mike Pence and representatives from many federal agencies shared valuable information, but also said we face an unprecedented challenge.


If some of the steps the state and nation have taken feel like too much – well, they’re probably about right. There is no vaccine or proven treatment for the coronavirus yet, so social distancing is literally our only option to control the pandemic.


That’s why I called an emergency meeting of the city commission for Monday, March 23, at 5 p.m. to discuss the possibility of closing Apalachicola to any short-term lodging for seven days. A pause would give us more time to consider virus trends in north Florida, and the best ways to respond.


Apalachicola is focused on maintaining critical services. We want to keep citizens safe, and keep city employees safe so they can keep serving you.


The city, the county, the health department, and law enforcement all share information and are all working together.


If you do show symptoms, call the health department or your medical provider to set up an appointment.


Watch out for false rumors, and don’t panic. If you have questions, get answers from local health professionals or the CDC, not from social media posts spreading conspiracy theories.


Our great community will survive this, so let’s do what we do best – watch out for family, friends, and neighbors.


Apalachicola Mayor Kevin Begos can be reached at kbegos@cityofapalachicola.com