Sobering actions from our neighbors

Johnson City Press • Mar 29, 2020 at 9:00 AM

Less than 30 miles from Johnson City, people in western North Carolina will be under a “stay at home” order as of 5 p.m. Monday.

Gov. Roy Cooper issued the statewide order Friday, directing people to stay at home except to visit essential businesses, exercise outdoors or help a family member. The order came as Tennessee’s neighbor to the east had 764 reported cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). That number topped 1,000 on Saturday.

Tennessee, which has about 3.5 million fewer residents than North Carolina, already had 1,203 cases on Friday. On Saturday, the total reached 1,373.

If that’s not a sobering comparison, we don’t know what is.

As of this writing, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has stopped short of such an order despite calls from physicians, including the East Tennessee State University Quillen College of Medicine’s dean, Dr. William Block. Lee’s orders have been less strident — limiting restaurants to carry-out, delivery and drive-through service, for example.

Another border state, Kentucky, has been under a “healthy at home” order since Thursday. Gov. Andy Beshear went as far as to advise Kentucky residents along the state line to stay out of Tennessee, except for work and other necessities. Beshear called out Tennessee for not shutting down non-essential activities altogether.

The vast majority of us appear to be following the advice of health professionals to help curb the spread of COVID-19 with social distancing and other measures. As we stated on Saturday, adaptations have been admirable.

Some of us, though, are not listening. Playing a contact sport of basketball on a crowded court or making casual trips to the store are not compliant activities.

At heart is a disconnect about the consequences. Because the illness appears to more seriously affect older people and other vulnerable populations, some may not be as concerned as they should be. These sacrifices are about the rapid spread of a deadly disease, not personal risk.

In Washington County, confirmed cases leapt from 10 on Friday to 14 on Saturday while Carter and Johnson counties made the list for the first time with a single case each.

Want to end this crisis? North Carolina and Kentucky’s actions should be enough to tell all Tennesseans to get more serious.

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