As of Monday morning, Wilkes County still had no confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

That’s both good news and bad news.

Good news in that our county has so far steered clear of the nearly 300 cases in North Carolina. It’s also great news that no one in the state has yet died of the virus.

The bad news is that many people will see the big “0” in the Great State of Wilkes column and develop a false sense of security. Time to go back to leading our normal lives, they might think.

That would be a potentially disastrous strategy. The fight to defeat COVID-19 is far from over, both here in Wilkes and around the globe.

A recent meme still making the rounds today goes like this: “Your grandparents were called to war. You’re being called to sit on your couch. You can do this.” The imposed federal and state response to the virus is a hard sell. As Americans, we’re used to taking the fight to the front lines, to battle, hold the line and stand together.

But this is an altogether different kind of war. We are being asked to distance ourselves from friends, family and strangers, because we’re waging war against an invisible, silent enemy.

One of the most alarming facts about COVID-19 is that you may be contagious even if you have no symptoms. Some young people who have contracted the virus never got physically sick before their diagnoses.

That’s why we must take social distancing seriously. That means calling off those brunch plans with your friends, even at an outdoor patio, and postponing playing group sports like baseball and soccer on the county’s recreational fields.

To stay at home and limit trips into public only for necessities like food and medicine may seem on the surface like a passive response to the virus. But it’s also our best plan of action if we hope to “flatten the curve” of the spread of the coronavirus.

We must master the “new normal” of laying low in this novel next chapter of our lives. So many people are dealing with stress, insecurity and anxiety as this new chapter unfolds. No one said it was easy to flip the switch on social distancing.

The world was a different place only a couple weeks ago. Now is the time to lead lives based on compassion. We need to help each other carry the collective load.

It’s tough times for musicians, actors, and owners of theaters and other entertainment venues. Their livelihoods are based on our instinct to assemble, be sociable and become part of an organic crowd. We’ve never experienced a time when groups of people could not simply gather together.

Artists—including A-list musicians Willie Nelson, John Legend, Bono and Pink—have responded to cancelled concerts and festivals by livestreaming shows in venues as intimate as their own living rooms.

Restaurant owners are adapting, too, by experimenting with curbside to-go service, fulfilling pickup orders placed by customers who not only miss their favorite foods but are committed to supporting local businesses in this time of deep concern.

More people are staying at home, which could mean reading a good book, binge watching TV, cooking in the kitchen or playing board games. Take more naps, too—a silver lining if I’ve ever seen one.

With spring officially on the books, with pleasant, sunny weather to boot, I’ve noticed an uptick of people out at Cub Creek Park below our house, walking or biking the trail system there or letting their pets romp inside the dog park. People are spread out and also getting great exercise, which checks off two important boxes.

We must slow down and simplify. The power of patience during a time that fosters panic must never be underestimated.

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