As coronavirus cases in North Carolina continued to spiral, Gov. Roy Cooper declined Wednesday to issue a statewide “shelter in place” order.

Pretty soon he may not have to.

Greensboro, High Point and Guilford County have joined Wake, Durham, Orange and Mecklenburg counties, among others, in issuing their own orders. The order takes effect at 5 p.m. Friday and is expected to last through April 16.

This means residents should remain in their homes during that time, unless they are:

Buying essential supplies such as groceries and food, as well as items they need to work from home.

Seeking medical treatment or obtaining medications.

Patronizing take-out or drive-thru restaurants.

Taking care of family members and friends.

Working jobs that involve essential services, including critical government functions, health care and infrastructure.

Engaging in outdoor activities such as jogging or cycling or walking a pet.

This will be burdensome and inconvenient and yet another blow to local businesses. But we have to do it.

As if we still needed convincing that this is a serious crisis, the number of coronavirus cases in Guilford County as of Wednesday had jumped to at least 22. Statewide, more than 500 cases had been confirmed, among them the first two COVID-19-related deaths in North Carolina.

Guilford County also saw its first community transmission of the virus this week, meaning that infection was not travel-related.

Some of us, in the blissful arrogance of our youth or the stubbornness of our years, still refuse to take this crisis for what it is.

Even the Skeptic in Chief, President Trump, had seemed, finally to understand the gravity of the crisis last week. Then he fanned the flames of denial this week by insisting, unrealistically, that America should be reopened for business by April 12.

There’s much we still don’t know about this pandemic, but we do know that it is highly contagious and easily transmissible. The best way to “flatten the curve” of its spread, say medical experts — and save lives and avert overwhelming hospitals — is to avoid close contact with others and to avoid crowded settings. Starving the virus of new hosts blunts its growth.

We know this is painful. We know the significant toll this is taking on the local, state and national economies. But it is a necessary sacrifice over the short term, to ensure our longer-term health and prosperity.

Fortunately, this is not a seismic shift. Already local dine-in restaurants, movie theaters, recreation centers, museums and public playgrounds had been closed. So have Guilford County Schools and area college campuses, which have transitioned to online instruction. Many employers have moved their workforces home. And gatherings of more than 10 people have been banned in the county.

We were nearer where we’ll need to be than many of us may realize.

For some of us this will be more unfamiliar and difficult than for others. But we can handle it. And we should, willingly, without further burdening overworked law enforcement.

So, keep tabs on your loved ones, friends and neighbors. At a social distance.

Rediscover the joys of quiet times with family or with a good book.

And find comfort and reassurance that in our isolation we are together.

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