Letter: Follow guidelines. Stay the course. Protect the community’s health.

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As physicians and public health professionals who have been on the front lines of health care, we have two critical messages for our communities.

First and foremost: please practice physical distancing!

We now have a growing number of COVID-19 positive cases identified in our communities. This is real. This is here. The messages you have been hearing about physical distancing should be crystal clear. The sooner we stay apart, the faster we can get back together.

Please understand it is critically important, both to individuals and the community, that you practice physical distancing in the form of staying home, avoiding crowds and if possible, working from home.

Flattening the curve works, but only when we commit and work together. The virus does not travel by itself. It travels when people travel.


Data and studies, including early information from cities like Seattle, show that aggressive policies and actions enforcing physical distancing work to slow the spread. They give our healthcare workforce the time and resources to respond to and protect our most vulnerable.

We have seen and heard of incidents of people in our community not following the guidelines of physical distancing. That is unacceptable and not representative of who we are.

Our residents should not put others at risk. We should stand up to protect the community. Nothing is more important than the lives we are saving.

This is a marathon, one we will be running for months. President Trump recently expanded physical distancing guidelines to the end of April. That is close to the minimum, in our opinion. So please prepare yourselves, your family and your work for the next few months for our new normal.

You may have noted we are using the term “physical distancing” rather than “social distancing”. While you must practice physical distancing, it is also important that everyone works to maintain mental well being, social connections and physical health.

This leads to our second message: the importance of personal well being. This message is one of making sure to manage your own mental and physical health during this crisis.

We know socializing with friends and family, and participating in festivities, fuels our happiness. Right now, those activities need to be put on hold. Take time now to have family conversations around social connection, physical health and mental wellness. Use this time to grow connections in new ways and to rediscover what matters most in your life.

Be aware of how you are doing and do not be afraid to seek help from family, professionals or reliable online resources, such as Firstlink at , Fargo Cass Public Health at , the Grand Forks Public Schools’ Mental Health Hub and Mental Health Matters at .


Even when we are physically apart, we are all in this together. Our communities and region have been through tough times together before. If we do the right thing by putting the health of our community first, we will come out of this stronger: as individuals, as families and as a community.

Brown is the mayor of Grand Forks, Wynne is the president of the University of North Dakota, Walz is a Grand Forks public health officer, Mahoney is mayor of Fargo, and Fleming is director of Fargo Cass Public Health

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