The recent surge in COVID-19 cases has placed enormous stress on all of us, including the care teams at Pen Bay Medical Center, Waldo County General Hospital and hospitals across the state.

Locally, our hospitals are experiencing a lack of available hospital beds and are faced with having to postpone scheduled surgeries that require an overnight stay. Our emergency departments are overcrowded, and we are experiencing severe staffing shortages due, in part, to employees testing positive for COVID-19. As a result, we have been forced to adjust our normal way of doing business.

In the face of these challenges, our teams continue to do heroic work. But, even heroic efforts have their limits. Our teams need your help.

Specifically, we are asking you to do three easy things to support your local hospitals and the doctors, nurses and support staff that are doing their very best to care for our community during this most challenging time of the pandemic.

1. Stay safe and take care of yourself. This is the best way to avoid an unplanned hospital stay that would otherwise stress an already overburdened system. Take appropriate precautions to avoid catching COVID-19 and the flu. Wearing a mask when indoors, maintaining a safe distance and getting vaccinated are proven ways of preventing both COVID-19 and the flu. Also, consider reducing the kinds of activities that pose an increased risk of illness or injury until the surge subsides.

2. If you need care, seek it out at the most appropriate place. Use our emergency departments only when you need immediate care for serious or life-threatening conditions. For most problems your first call should be to your primary care provider, most of whom have same-day appointments. If you require urgent medical attention that is not an emergency or you cannot see your PCP, please also consider our walk-in care offices, located at 22 White St. in Rockland and 119 Northport Ave. in Belfast.

3. Practice patience and kindness. Wait times for many of our services are longer than usual for everyone. Please know that your patience and understanding of the current health care landscape are especially appreciated by our care team members who are working long hours and extra shifts to meet the needs of our community.

Despite the current strain that we are experiencing, we are not without hope. Although the data over the past 10 days or so continues to show extremely high numbers of patients testing positive, these numbers have recently leveled off and even decreased a bit. Some forecasts indicate that omicron has peaked in Maine, or will do so in the coming weeks.

That’s good news. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that hospitalizations with COVID-19 continue to hover at record levels as do the number of COVID patients in our critical and intensive care units.

Every care team member at PBMC and WCGH is putting in an extraordinary amount of time and effort to care for our community. Please join us by staying safe, seeking care at the most appropriate setting and practicing patience and kindness. Working together, we will lead our friends, family and neighbors through this pandemic.

Dr. Mark Fourre is president of Pen Bay Medical Center and Waldo County General Hospital.