This is an unsettling time for our country and our community, as we are in a public health emergency due to the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Your elected leaders and public health officials are working around the clock to slow the spread of the virus and provide care to those who need it.

It is important to remember that we need to be prepared, not scared. Heed the advice of public health experts who agree that the most effective way to “flatten the curve,” or slow the spread of the virus, is to practice social distancing.

Below is some helpful information regarding COVID-19:

How can you be infected?

Coronavirus can spread from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Because these droplets can travel up to 6 feet, public health experts advise maintaining 6 feet of distance from others.

The virus can also remain on a surface or object, and enter the body through the mouth, nose or eyes. This is why it is important to wash your hands before touching your face.

How long does it take to show symptoms after being infected?

It takes two to 14 days to develop symptoms after exposure to the virus. The average is about five days.

What are the symptoms?

Fever, dry cough and shortness of breath.

When should you seek testing?

If you are exhibiting symptoms, if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus and/or if you have recently traveled to one of the high-risk countries or known cities here at home where there are concentrations of persons tested positive for the coronavirus.

Except in the case of an emergency, please call your health care provider before seeking treatment in person.

While it is normal to feel anxious, there are ways to take control of the situation and be prepared. We urge you to take the following precautions to keep yourself and our community safe: wash your hands often and for at least 20 seconds; avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth; avoid physical contact like handshakes and hugs; stay home if you feel sick; avoid large crowds; and abstain from unnecessary travel.

What is the difference between “safer at home” and “social distancing”?

Safer at home is a stricter form of social distancing. There are some differences. Safer at home means stay home (stay unexposed and do not expose others), only go out for essential services (groceries, medicines, gasoline), stay 6 feet or more away from others and don’t gather in groups (10 or more is now considered a group).

It is important during this national emergency that we unite as a community, follow the advice of experts and take responsibility for our actions to #SlowTheSpread of coronavirus. For more information, visit coronavirus.health.ny.gov or call the NYS Novel Coronavirus Hotline at 888-364-3065.

With everyone doing their part, we can slow the spread and by doing so, we can return more quickly to our normal routines in a much faster and safer way than any other currently known. Please stay safe!

Peter Inglasbe is Farmington town supervisor.