'Wisconsin nice' means 6 feet apart to combat COVID-19
'Wisconsin nice' means 6 feet apart to combat COVID-19
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EDITORIAL

'Wisconsin nice' means 6 feet apart to combat COVID-19

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“Wisconsin nice” — that friendly way people here greet and help one another — needs some tweaking. And fast.

Keep the smile and positive attitude. Stay in touch with your neighbors, for sure, particularly those who are older.

But let’s call it “Wisconsin smart,” for awhile. Let’s interact from a distance of at least 6 feet, as public health officials advise, to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Don’t shake hands or lean in for a hug. It will feel awkward at times, no doubt. But it will be worth it. And smart.

The news about the global threat from the virus has been disconcerting, to say the least. Unprecedented, historic. Schools closed, sports canceled, public spaces left empty.

These are strange times that demand strict limits on physical contact to contain COVID-19. The new coronavirus — causing a fever, cough and shortness of breath — has spread around the globe and into Wisconsin with disturbing speed and ferocity.

Wisconsin had 72 cases as of Tuesday, with 19 in Dane County, at least one of whom has recovered. Worldwide, 185,000 confirmed infections have killed more than 7,500.

Don’t panic. But do think about where you go and how you connect with people. Be “Wisconsin smart” in ways that don’t risk broader infection, and that help “flatten the curve” together. Minimizing the potential surge in cases — the “flattening” effect — is key to moving past this difficult challenge.

Too much is at stake to shrug off the danger.

Gov. Tony Evers ordered schools in Wisconsin to close. President Donald Trump urged citizens across the nation to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people. The directives — based on advice from health officials — are justified, despite considerable disruption to families, events, businesses and the economy.

Not since the “Spanish” flu, which killed an estimated 50 million people a century ago, including 675,000 in the United States, has such an all-out effort to contain a novel disease been employed.

The collective goal must be to minimize exposure so our health care system isn’t overwhelmed. Italy should serve as a stark warning of what can happen if we don’t act swiftly to get ahead of COVID-19’s spread. Italian society has come to a standstill, with few venturing outside, hospitals filled, and exhausted health workers facing the nightmare of rationing care. In a single day, Italy reported 368 deaths from the virus.

Modern medicine and digital communication can better protect the public than during past pandemics. Wisconsin has some of the best health care providers in the world. Most cases of COVID-19 do not require hospitalization, and the young seem resilient.

Yet we all have a role to play to ease the misery that COVID-19 can inflict, particularly on older adults and others with weaker immune systems. Let’s limit our movements and what we touch — not only for our own protection, but to help safeguard our parents, grandparents and other high-risk people we love.

If you do run a fever or develop a cough with difficulty breathing, call your health care provider before driving to a clinic or emergency room. (The UW Health COVID-19 hotline is 608-720-5300.) Those who might have the virus should enter health facilities using designated entrances.

And when you see people you know at the grocery, pharmacy or work, wave and say hello, but don’t shake hands. Wash and sanitize your hands after touching hard surfaces. Stay informed — the Wisconsin State Journal is committing enormous resources to its daily coverage — and share information on social media rather than visiting friends and family in person.

Be a good citizen by accepting some inconvenience to help protect public health and save lives. That’s both Wisconsin nice and Wisconsin smart.

The State Journal editorial board expresses its views independent of news coverage decisions elsewhere in the newspaper. The editorial board includes president and publisher Tom Wiley, editor John Smalley, editorial page editor Scott Milfred and editorial cartoonist Phil Hands.

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