If you are not doing work that cannot be done from home, buying essentials or seeking medical care, you should be staying home right now.
Those who choose to go out unnecessarily could face bad consequences themselves. It’s true that this disease is much more harmful to the sick and elderly than to the young, but the young are not free from serious consequences. In places where the COVID-19 pandemic is more advanced, about 20 percent of hospitalizations are for relatively young people.
But more than the consequences you may face, you should consider the consequences for others. This pandemic has moved so quickly because it spreads exponentially. Each new person who gets it and continues to interact with other members of the public (there is a delay between exposure and onset of symptoms) will infect between two and three more people on average. Those will infect another two to three, who will infect another two or three. A few steps down the line, one person who has failed to protect themselves may have infected hundreds of their neighbors.
And because the disease spreads so quickly, if people are not exercising excellent hygiene, keeping their distance from others and staying at home whenever possible, those who don’t stay home are in fact risking overwhelming the health care system.
It would be bad if you got sick. But imagine what it would be like living knowing that people died because you were unwilling to make the small sacrifices necessary to stop it.
So far, the only strategy that has proven effective at reducing the rate of spread is a lockdown — no one leaving their homes except to work (if they can’t possibly work from home), to get groceries or to seek medical care.
For this reason, Gov. Brad Little should strongly consider extending his shelter in place order for Blaine County, which has seen the largest outbreak so far, to the entire state. The sooner this happens, the lower the peak number of cases will be, and the less likely the health care system will be overwhelmed.
Absent such a declaration, we are responsible for stopping the spread ourselves until such time that measures are available that are capable of treating the illness or halting its spread. This is the problem every scientist in the world with relevant expertise is working on right now.
Our job is to give them time.
We can do that by staying home. Right now, that is what it means to love your neighbor.