Traffic is light in Madison, even during the morning commute.
State Street and Downtown are barren.
Across Wisconsin, most people are staying in their homes to help slow the spread of the deadly pandemic.
It’s eerie and bizarre. It’s also impressive and imperative.
Keep it up, everybody. Continue to fight the novel coronavirus by sheltering in place, maintaining your distance when you have to go out, and washing your hands a lot, especially before eating.
The shutdown has been terrible for the economy. Millions of workers are losing their jobs or hours, and many businesses are struggling to survive. But our leaders in Washington agreed last week to a massive relief package to help ease financial burdens. The legislation is far from perfect. Yet a big response from government is warranted, given that governments at all levels have ordered so much of the economy to close.
The noble and necessary goal is to protect hundreds of thousands of lives from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus. A surge in cases has overwhelmed hospitals in Italy, New York and Washington state. And if too many people quickly fall ill in Wisconsin, our hospitals won’t have enough beds and ventilators.
This isn’t just another flu season, in which health workers and much of the public have been inoculated against the infection. It’s the unleashing of a disease with no known cure or vaccine. The elderly and those with underlying health conditions are most at risk. Most people experience mild symptoms. Yet COVID-19 could potentially strike anyone with severity.
And that’s paying off by keeping most people at home and at least 6 feet apart at groceries and pharmacies.
Traffic is down about 40 percent in the Madison area, according to transportation officials. An analysis by smartphone tracking firm Unacast similarly suggests Wisconsin is doing relatively well at staying put. Using location data, Unacast gave Wisconsin a “B” for social distancing, with an average decrease in movement of 40%. Dane County, with a 45% decrease, earned an “A.”
That should go a long way toward slowing this coronavirus. But strictly limiting your direct human contact to only the people in your home must continue and, if anything, tighten further.
State health officials said last week that staying home could prevent as many as 1,500 deaths in Wisconsin by April 8. It also will protect front-line workers — health care providers, emergency responders, grocery and retail clerks. We’re in a war against a deadly disease with some odd yet crucial marching orders: Pull together by staying apart.
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