Our Opinion: Ratcheting up the virus fight

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Gov. Charlie Baker's order Monday that all non-essential businesses be closed is a painful action that he has tried to avoid doing. It is a necessary one, however, as the state continues to wrestle with the coronavirus.

The governor did not, however, issue a shelter-in-place order, as have other states, and his vision differs at least to degree from that expressed in a column on the opposite page by Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, North Adams Mayor Tom Bernard and two Berkshire health officials, who are urging people to stay home to slow the spread of the virus in the Berkshires. The governor stated that "It doesn't make sense from a public health point of view, and it's not realistic," to ask people to confine themselves to their homes for days at a time, and people do have to go to grocery stores, pharmacies and restaurants offering take-out. The message of the four Berkshire writers — "We all have the responsibility to do what we can to reduce the risk to ourselves, to our families and to our communities"— is an important one.

Social isolation is not a natural state of being, but it is necessary to slow the progress of the virus, or "flatten the curve" in the current parlance. By doing so, we will lessen the strain on Berkshire Medical Center and other health care providers and enable them to do their work efficiently.

People should stay home as much as possible and exercise caution when they make necessary trips, beginning with cleaning their hands with hand sanitizer and soap. The governor is advising people to avoid unnecessary interactions with others where the virus can be spread, and directed the Department of Public Health to issue social distancing and self-isolation guidelines for essential businesses that will remain open. The governor noted that under his order it would be fine for people to go out for a walk in a park but it would not be wise to play softball or basketball within a group because that would violate the concept of social distancing.

It 's also advisable to show a little kindness. Don't hoard toilet paper and bread when it becomes available at a local grocery store. Maintain phone contact with the elderly, or those suffering from ailments that make it difficult or risky for them to get out and do necessary chores. The Berkshires prides itself as being a caring, close-knit community. The coronavirus provides an extraordinary opportunity for us to show it.



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