The number of folks who have tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus locally has remained low. That's good news and that should be celebrated.

I am not suggesting the battle is over and that everyone should head back to the mall. Not by a long shot. What I am saying is that area residents, for the most part, are adhering to the advice of local government and health officials and are doing their part to prevent the spread of the virus, and it appears to be having an impact.

Mayor Jon Mitchell's administration has been out front on this effort from the beginning with good, solid guidance for residents to follow to keep themselves and others in the community from contracting the coronavirus. As of this writing, there have been three cases of COVID-19 confirmed in New Bedford and one each in Fairhaven and Dartmouth. To my understanding, all of the cases have required self-quarantine and just one required a brief hospitalization. Again, this is good news and it needs to be celebrated.

The Standard-Times reports cases around our region have been few: "Eight patients have tested positive for COVID-19 since testing began, according to Southcoast Health. One patient had been briefly hospitalized, before being discharged home to self-quarantine."

The report continues, "'No one had severe symptoms,' Southcoast Health Chief Clinical Officer Dani Hackner said. The others diagnosed had milder symptoms that did not require inpatient care. They are quarantined at home while they recuperate."

Yet the headline reads "SouthCoast 'seeing more and more patients with coronavirus.'" Misleading at best.

This is not the time for area residents to let their guard down. It seems a good deal of our success to date in keeping the virus away can be attributed to our vigilance. But local officials need to be more upbeat about the numbers and use them to encourage residents to continue to do the things they need to do to keep the numbers low. The low numbers to date are proof that self-distancing and other precautions are working.

There is nothing at all wrong with being positive and offering hope that this outbreak might not be as severe as many have feared. Things may, in fact, get much worse before they get better. But if we all continue to work to flatten the curve, it is also possible that they may not.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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