Things look fairly normal in New Bern amid fears that COVID-19 will overtake the capacity of the national health care system and result in mounting numbers of severe cases and deaths.

The City of New Bern has provided a good collection of COVID-19 resources, but what is lacking is leadership coming from City Hall.

The City of New Bern is working together with county, regional, state, and national partners to protect the public as concerns grow over the Coronavirus/COVID 19,” the city states on its COVID-19 web page. “The City has operational plans and will implement procedures as needed to ensure our ability to maintain critical and essential services, as well as support state and county health efforts. Below you’ll find helpful links about Coronavirus/COVID 19 and the best ways to prevent illness and avoid being exposed.

The Craven County Health Department also takes a passive approach, providing links and updated information but nothing in the way of leadership.

COVID-19 comes at a terrible time for New Bern, which is hosting its first major convention since Hurricane Florence damaged the city’s ability to host large events.

Craven County has a top-rated hospital with CarolinaEast Medical Center, a 350-bed facility (not counting the new cancer center) and a high-quality staff.

But it would quickly be overrun if Craven County and surrounding communities suddenly deal with a full outbreak. CarolinaEast Medical Center serves an area with a population of well over 100,000. If 10 percent of that population is sickened by COVID-19 (an extremely low estimate), that’s a minimum of 10,000, and of that, at least 10 percent will require advanced medical care — in other words, at least 1,000.

That would overwhelm CarolinaEast Medical Center’s capacity of 350 beds. If it happens here, you can bet it will be happening in the rest of the state, so don’t count on other hospitals to have available capacity.

The key is to reduce the number of people infected by COVID-19, and the only proven way to do that is to cut back on gatherings of people.

That means close schools, close movie theaters, cancel conventions, close churches, and so on.

That would take some major leadership in our community, and to be blunt, I’m not seeing it. My big fear is that the measures that need to be taken now won’t be instituted until it is too late.

The key is to prevent the spread of infection now, while it is still manageable.

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