On Monday, Oregonians got the news we feared might be coming but hoped we could avoid — bars and restaurants closed except for takeout and delivery service, gatherings of more than 25 people banned, the governor urging Oregonians to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.
That stark announcement came on the heels of sporting events canceled, schools closed, and other gathering places like libraries and community centers also closed. Even St. Patrick’s day lost its luster Tuesday following the governor’s announcement.
All of this is made more disheartening by the knowledge that people are sick and dying, and experts say many more will become ill in the near future.
Some have compared this to a snow globe; shake it and the entire scene changes. Others say it is like 9/11, when a series of events made us fearful, wondering what bad news would come next.
Life has changed for all of us, at least for now, and even more stringent restrictions, including curfews, travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, could be on the way.
Some people are chafing at these measures, calling them unnecessary and an overreach. COVID-19 is most dangerous for the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions, like asthma, heart disease and those with compromised immune conditions. Younger, healthier people have a much higher chance to shake off COVID-19 and fully recover.
That has prompted some younger people to question why they have to abide by these restrictions, since the virus is unlikely to affect them directly.
They are wrong. All we need to do is look at what is happening in Italy.
Three weeks ago Italy had three known cases of COVID-19 and daily life was unchanged by it. Today, Italy is the epicenter of the pandemic, with about 30,000 known cases and more than 2,000 deaths, including 368 in one day. The country is under quarantine but the restrictions came late, and hospitals as well as funeral homes are overwhelmed by the outbreak.
Experts say Italy is about two weeks ahead of the U.S. The only way to even hope to avoid what Italians are experiencing is to take extreme and immediate actions to limit the spread of COVID-19 — the kind of actions that Oregon is taking.
Doing otherwise, and continuing to mingle in groups and going to bars, restaurants and bowling alleys would be selfish and reckless during this pandemic. It could speed up the spread of the virus and increase the suffering for older and more vulnerable people, and for the medical workers who care for them.
And ignoring the recommendation of the governor and health experts could end up worsening the situation for all of us — especially local businesses and restaurants. No one wants to see local institutions close — temporarily or otherwise — but if we continue to brush off this pandemic, we make it more difficult for our health system to get ahead of this virus and put us in a position to safely open our favorite places.
Though the virus appears much less fatal for those under 50, younger, healthier people can still contract the virus, not show symptoms and infect at-risk populations — like their parents.
It’s pretty simple: If low-risk people don’t socially distance, then the entire containment process is ineffective. Those at high risk — the sick and the elderly — don’t tend to move around as much as lower-risk individuals. That means it’s more likely that a low-risk individual will expose a high-risk individual to the virus.
It’s understandable that people want to socialize now. People are stressed and want to support local businesses. You can still do that. Buy gift cards to be used at a later date. Order takeout or get your meal delivered. Send your favorite restaurant some money to be distributed to the staff.
Whatever you chose, do it from home.
The consequences of doing otherwise could be dire. “Many of us were too selfish to change our behavior,” Italian journalist Mattia Ferra wrote in The Boston Globe on Friday. “Now we’re in lockdown and people are needlessly dying.”
We don’t want to repeat those mistakes here.
We urge you to make the responsible choice and follow the guidelines the experts recommend — namely self-isolation and social distancing. Similar actions have proven effective in other countries and saved lives. It’s the right thing to do.