The old line heard at closing time for bars and taverns has been: “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”
Now, it’s best if you do go home. And stay there as much as possible.
As we adjust to the threat of the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak and make adjustments to our daily lives, we are being asked with increasing urgency to limit our physical contact with others, by following advice to use social distancing to lower the chances that we will contract the virus; or the more frightening thought, that we — not knowing if we are carrying the contagion because of its long incubation period and its relatively mild symptoms in some — could spread it to others, especially those who are older or have immune systems less able to mount a defense against the virus.
The response — and a measure of how seriously the outbreak is taken by individuals — has been mixed. Students, from pre-school through college, are home, and parents are doing what they can to keep up their studies. And many who are able to work from home are doing so. But we’ve also seen TV reports and newspaper photos of beaches, parks and other public spaces — from Florida to Mukilteo — packed with folks, as if sun burn was the biggest health threat.
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams is warning that Americans will see the outbreak worsen this week, and said on NBC’s “Today” show that too many across the country are not taking the virus and the outbreak’s consequences seriously enough.
“Everyone needs to act as if they have the virus right now. So, test or no test, we need you to understand you could be spreading it to someone else. Or you could be getting it from someone else. Stay at home,” he said.
That’s the message from others, closer to home, including Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin, who — still seeing too many vehicles during Thursday night’s evening commute — on Friday night issued a strict directive, effective Monday, that implores all city residents and business owners to stay at home as much as possible, with exceptions for essential business, government service and public infrastructure.
There are exceptions for travel to health and safety appointments, as well as shopping for groceries and other essentials, as well as running errands for those who shouldn’t leave their homes. Residents can venture out for walks, but are being asked to keep six feet of distance between themselves and others and to keep children off playground equipment.
Likewise, other local governments have closed some parks or parks facilities, including Mukilteo’s Lighthouse Park. Gates and restroom facilities have been closed at Snohomish County parks, with access limited to walking and similar activities that better allow for social distancing.
Late Monday afternoon, Gov. Jay Inslee announced his “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, a directive that state residents stay home, except for certain essential businesses and jobs and essential outings for groceries, take-out food, supplies and medical appointments. For at least a two-week period, effective Monday, the order also bars weddings, funerals and other nonfamily gatherings, indoors and outdoors.
“It’s time to hunker down in order to win this fight,” Inslee said. “The less time you spend out in public, the more lives we can save.”
For some, complying or not with the directive was not a matter of choice, as some workers have not been given the option by employers to remain home. Among the largest employers in the city and county, The Boeing Co. has now relented — following the death of a worker at the Everett plant who tested positive for the virus — to pleas to send workers home from manufacturing and other jobs within the Puget Sound region for two weeks, effective Wednesday, as was announced Monday.
Boeing announced that it would begin to suspend operations for 14 days, providing workers with 10 days of paid leave, for those who cannot work from home.
Voluntary or mandatory, decisions for businesses to close up shop — whether they employ three people or 30,000 — are not a simple matter; there are workers’ livelihoods at stake as well as the survival of the businesses themselves. That’s all the more reason for members of Congress to quickly — but with due consideration — adopt responsible measures directed at providing financial assistance to Americans and businesses, small and large.
Why this must be done is a matter of mathematical odds.
Picture every trip outside your home as a reverse lottery of sorts.
Every time you step outside your door, you are “buying” a lottery ticket that offers a chance at a grim jackpot. Each time you leave home, you’re given another lottery ticket, with opportunities to reduce your odds somewhat by using social distancing and liberal use of sanitizer and hand-washing. But the fewer times you leave home — and avoid collecting another lottery ticket — the better your chances of not hitting a jackpot that exposes you and your family to the Covid-19 coronavirus or spreading it to others.
Our best bet now is to stay home as much as possible.
Keep donating to food banks, giving blood and checking by phone with older neighbors and family. And, as always, wash your hands.
Update: This story has been updated to include Gov. Inslee’s stay-home directive.
Postscript: This editorial is dedicated to the memory of Peter Jackson, former Herald opinion page editor, who died last week following a long battle with cancer. The Herald mourns Jackson, an Everett native who emulated a life of public service and dedication to environmental issues that his father, U.S. Sen. Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson, and his mother, Helen, modeled for their children and their community.