Tribune Opinion: It is time to just 'stay at home'
Summary: Those ignoring the stay-at-home directive are endangering themselves, their family and our communities.
The coronavirus has reached west central Minnesota with confirmed cases in most counties. The virus reality is that it is likely in all Minnesota counties but just has not been confirmed due to the lack of testing.
It has been less than four weeks since the first coronavirus case was confirmed in Ramsey County. As of Wednesday afternoon, there are now 689 confirmed cases in Minnesota and 17 confirmed deaths, ranging in age from four months to 104 years old.
State health officials have identified cases where the coronavirus has spread through community transmission in more than a dozen Minnesota counties, with no ties to international travel or other confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Health and government officials — from state to federal — are saying that the worst is yet to come.
This is serious, folks.
Gov. Tim Walz implemented a statewide stay-at-home order Saturday in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 infections and to allow more time for health and government entities to prepare for the expected wave.
Yet some individuals still do not comprehend the seriousness of this virus threat.
One reader has written the Tribune twice in the past week claiming the coronavirus is a big hoax.
We have heard reports of teenagers gathering with their friends at one parent's house or another. Others are congregating on basketball courts or skate parks for exercise. And others are playing touch football or softball.
And adult friends are gathering for private coronavirus parties. Others are organizing family gatherings outside nursing homes or parades for birthdays and anniversaries.
All seem to be in denial of the reality of the coronavirus threat. Is a softball game, birthday celebration or anniversary parade worth the risk of a coronavirus infection and the possibility of death in your family?
White House health officials predicted Tuesday that there could be 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the United States from the COVID-19 pandemic, even if the federal social distancing guidelines are followed perfectly through April.
Such a pandemic death toll of 100,000-plus would far exceed the American death total during World War I or the Vietnam War.
President Donald Trump called "it a matter of life and death" for Americans to heed the social distancing guidelines.
Individuals ignoring social distancing guidelines are gambling with the lives of their family and their own.
The facts are simple. There is no magic bullet, no vaccine, no therapy or no cure at this time.
The only and safest defense against the coronavirus is to follow Gov. Walz's directive and stay at home.
Yes, there are appropriate reasons for going out — getting groceries, medical appointments or outdoor exercise. However, send one person only to the grocery store, leave the rest of the family at home. Take a walk only with your immediate family members and maintain appropriate social distance from your neighbors. Tell your teenagers to stay home.
There are essential businesses and their workers that can remain operational under the stay-at-home order, including grocery stores, hardware stores, banks, newspapers and others.
For those not following the stay-at-home order properly, appropriate law enforcement agencies will seek and educate the community members.
For those who refuse, or fail to, comply with an officer's request to follow the stay-at-home order can face a misdemeanor citation, which is punishable by a $1,000 fine or imprisonment up to 90 days.
The bigger threat to those refusing to cooperate maybe to become infected by the coronavirus and face serious health consequences, including death of themselves or a family member.
The threat of COVID-19 is not just a New York or Florida problem. It is an urban and a rural threat. It is right here in west central Minnesota. If there is a huge outbreak of confirmed cases in west central Minnesota, our health systems can easily be overwhelmed.
Those ignoring the stay-at-home order are endangering not only their lives and their families but the rest of the community as well.
It is time to stay calm, stay safe and, simply, stay at home.
This editorial is the opinion of the West Central Tribune's editorial board consisting of publisher Steve Ammermann and editor Kelly Boldan.