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Stay the course

Johnson City Press • Apr 15, 2020 at 10:00 AM

President Donald Trump’s adamant desire to reopen the country is understandable, given the number of businesses and employees who have been affected by the stay-home orders issued by state governments during the novel coronavirus.

Record unemployment claims reveal just how far the problem reaches. The government’s efforts to provide paycheck relief and other forms of support cannot come fast enough.

It’s not just pocketbooks that are suffering. Schoolchildren, many of them with severe learning disabilities, are essentially being homeschooled with online support from teachers. Bereaved families are unable to conduct normal funeral services. No hospital visitations are allowed. Churches have been forced to forgo services or conduct them online.

So yes, we agree with the president that a return to normalcy is a major priority.

But if we are to fully recover from this crisis, the U.S. must first get the virus under control. Health officials, including those in the top levels of the Trump administration, have warned that ending social distancing too soon would give the deadly virus a renewed lease on life. Lacking a comprehensive testing program, a definitive treatment and a vaccine, the spread would go unchecked.

The curve we have worked so hard to flatten would spike again, endangering more lives. All of our sacrifices would be for naught. Back we would go into another, possibly longer shutdown, thrusting the U.S. into an even worse economic quagmire.

Some good news: Governors around the country are developing what are likely drawn-out, incremental strategies toward reopening their states, as they are responsible for the health and welfare of their citizens. A measured approach grounded in science, not politics, is necessary.

So Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee was right on Monday when he extended his stay-home order another two weeks, through April 30. Given a Vanderbilt study’s estimations that the state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations will not peak until mid-June without even further intervention, Lee’s order is likely just a stopgap. Expect another extension. Vanderbilt’s study and others like it, though, present an optimistic picture. The measures we have undertaken are working to diminish the rates of infection.

Here in Northeast Tennessee, we have seen 144 cases and five deaths as of Tuesday. There were three new cases in the upstate out of 213 new confirmations statewide. Based on just how fast COVID-19 spread in major metropolitan areas before intervention, we can take some comfort. The work is paying off, and we cannot let our guards down.

We know this is tough. Like all businesses that depend on free commerce, we are feeling the crunch.

Our best strategy is to stay the course and be even more vigilant. Stay home except for essential needs. Follow the social distancing and sanitation guidelines.

If it’s long-term normalcy you want, continuing the short-term sacrifices is a must.

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