WATCH: WSLS 10 co-hosting coronavirus Q&A with medical experts

Message is clear - virus is spreading in our community and staying home can help stop the spread.

ROANOKE, Va. – In a historic first, health care and broadcast entities across western Virginia teamed up with one shared goal: flattening the COVID-19 curve.

On Monday, clinicians from the Virginia Department of Health, Carilion Clinic, LewisGale Medical Center and the Salem VA Medical Center partnered to host a panel discussion on COVID-19 called “Coronavirus: A Community Conversation.”

Panelists answered questions from the public. Topics included how the region is currently doing, what people need to do, and how they can help.


The experts said the community needs to stop worrying about who does and doesn’t have it. Dr. Molly O’Dell of the Virginia Department of Health said the data now shows that the virus is around.

“We’re seeing more everyday patients who we cannot explain how they got COVID-19, which confirms the sustained community transmission that has been described,” O’Dell said.

One of the most popular topics right now is masks after the call continues to grow for Americans to wear them in public. Dr. Thomas Martin of the Salem VA Medical Center demonstrated an easy way to make a mask, but said people usually fail at one step.

“Hand hygiene is critical when you put these on and when you take these off. And here’s the difficult thing for most patients or most people out in the community: once it’s on, don’t touch it," Martin said.

It’s tough to predict when we’ll see our peak number of patients, but the experts said our hospitals at this point can handle the load. Even better than that, Dr. Paul Skolnik of Carilion Clinic said together as a community, we can bring the peak down.

“Using social distancing and other techniques to try to keep this region from having the dramatic spread that other places have experienced. And we have our chance now," Skolnik said.

The experts all agreed in a perfect world they’d test more people, but that’s not the one we live in right now. They said right now you can help by washing your hands often and staying home, a message Dr. Carnell Cooper of Lewis Gale said can save lives.

“If we can make sure that we abide by those two rules then that is what is going to flatten the curve that everyone talks about," Cooper said.

The hour-long event was aired live on WSLS 10, WDBJ 7, WFXR, and WSET, as well as our websites and Facebook pages. It was also broadcast on WFIR and WVTF radio.

To adhere to social distancing guidelines, WSLS 10 worked with the other stations to strategically pool resources and minimize the number of production staff required to be onsite for the actual event.

This scale of collaboration was unprecedented. Our goals are all the same – to ensure that residents have accurate and reliable information to combat COVID-19.

“Our mission at WSLS 10 is to keep our community safe by keeping them informed during these unprecedented times,” said WSLS 10′s Vice President and General Manager Jaimie Leon. “We are proud to be able to partner with top health care professionals in southwest Virginia and collaborate with television stations and radio partners in our area, to deliver important and factual information to our communities during this crucial time.”

All of the television, radio stations and health care entities feel it takes an entire community to flatten the COVID-19 curve.