When we have a question about our health or that of people around us, what do we do? Typically we call a doctor or a clinic. Maybe we will get shuffled to a physician’s assistant or a high-powered nurse, but usually we will get an answer to our questions or at least an understanding of what to expect.

If we really are desperate, we might go directly to an emergency room or walk-in clinic, because, well, the situation is an emergency for us. Our concern is high. Our threat level is high. Our anxiety is feverish. The ER provides an answer, one way or the other.

So perhaps all of us should rush to the emergency room at Sovah-Martinsville.

Because our collective health has never been in such jeopardy, our questions never more urgent and, most important, our anxiety levels seldom this high. And we aren’t getting the types of diagnoses our symptoms demand.

Last week we asked why none of our community leaders were standing up and assuring us that our cities and towns and counties and schools are being monitored for the greater good as a terrifying pandemic has seized our nation and squeezed all of us out of life. As we had begun to hunker down, stay indoors, dared not to go out into the public for any reason, we didn’t know what would happen when the first case of COVID-19 – the coronavirus – struck Martinsville.

In the past seven days those leaders have spoken in the forms of declarations and resolutions and adjustments of processes and procedures. We didn’t hear assuring words of comfort – and we still think our supervisors, mayors and superintendents owe us those – but we have seen threads of leadership.

Similarly byproduct crises created by closed schools appear to be addressed in the feeding of our students through various programs or by nonprofits coming together to address the need for childcare so the workforce could, well, work.

But the biggest issue of all this awfulness is our need for a public kind-hand-on-the-shoulder to assure that our health care providers are ready for this virus to invade, ready with testing kits and treatment equipment and cleaning plans and staffing plans.

And we don’t have all those answers.

Sure the West Piedmont Health District, which covers a large swath of the state, is available to provide guidance, to refer questions to state-level employees and to act as a statistician.

But the health department doesn’t diagnose or treat. And, frankly, we aren’t sure who is.

Sovah-Martinsville is our largest and most important health care provider. It is the only hospital – in tandem with its partner in Danville – for this corner of the state.

We know that CEO Dale Alward is in charge of the planning for the pandemic, but we don’t know who assists. We don’t know if there are testing kits, ventilators and necessary procedures in place. We have no understanding of any level of expertise.

The hospital won’t answer those questions.

Its response – through the words of a publicist and not a physician – is that the hospital is watchful (our translation).

On Friday night, our concerns elevated. We learned someone in our health district had tested positive for the coronavirus. We don’t know the severity or the background, and we don’t know how this person was discovered or tested.

A hospital spokesperson did say that dozens had been tested – a deeper explanation is needed – and that no one in Martinsville had been positive. That’s comforting in its bare facts.

That’s now the benchmarks for our high anxiety.

We deserve better. We deserve to have every confidence that this horrible situation can be managed appropriately to ensure the health of our families, our loved ones and the community.

We know by now to wash our hands and stay away from each other.

Conversely, we don’t want our medical providers washing their hands of the problem and staying away from all of us.

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