A Natrona County Health Officer on Thursday said area health professionals are doing everything they can to get a handle on the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

"The hospital is full," Dr. Ghazi Ghanem said.

"COVID is a virus that has divided us as a society — and we have made up our mind as to how we're going to respond to it," he continued. "I think a lot of people have seen how this led to a lot of disruptions last time we went out and tried to give information. Our job is to keep you informed."

Thursday's press conference wasn't open to the public and instead was disseminated through a series of YouTube videos.

Ghanem thanked those in the community who have done their part to limit the virus from spreading — actions like wearing a mask.

"We know this virus is spreading fast," Ghanem said. "We know that the majority are going to be OK and get over it. But we also know people with or without preexisting conditions are getting sick — and some of them die.

"We need to flatten the curve."

Currently, 40 people are hospitalized in Natrona County, putting stress on the local healthcare system, Ghanem said.

Failing to slow the virus down will mean negative consequences.

"If we keep going like this from 40 patients in the hospital, we may reach 60 or 80," Ghanem said. "Then we will have to shut down some of the surgeries and then we may not be able to take care of the people who are sick, with or without COVID."

He added that nursing homes are getting full of people with COVID. Some are choosing to stay in nursing homes and go on comfort care.

"This is the time to take action," Ghanem said. "This is the time to say I will do my part. The only way we know to slow the spread of any respiratory disease is to stop it at its source. Put a mask on."

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