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Listen to the doctors and hang tight

When you’re sick and the doctor says you need to rest, you need to heed that advice. If you wake up one morning in the middle of that period and feel fine, and antsy to get back to work, you need someone — maybe a parent, child, spouse, partner or friend — to set you straight and tell you, “No, your job right now is to rest, whether you feel like it or not. That’s the only way it’s going to get better.”

When it’s your own health at stake, rejecting doctors’ advice puts yourself at risk, and maybe your family and friends. But when someone else’s life is on the line, those who flout the advice of medical experts are dangerously irresponsible. And for the leader of a nation of 330 million people to do so is really bad.

President Donald Trump is dead wrong — literally — to cheerlead for lifting social restrictions that are slowing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. He started this new push Monday and continued it Tuesday, saying the cure — people staying home and social distancing when they must go out — is far worse than the disease. 

He cites no medical experts on this. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases and a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, was notably absent from Trump’s virtual town hall on Fox News Tuesday. And the president openly scorned the advice of doctors, including those in his administration.

“If it were up to the doctors, they may say, ‘Let’s keep it shut down, let’s shut down the entire world,'” he said at a Monday evening press conference.

He said on a Fox News special Tuesday that he hopes “to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter.” That is April 12, a little over two weeks away.

Also on Tuesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a different prediction for two weeks from now. He pointed to the numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases and said they are increasing so fast, despite the stay-at-home order, that in two weeks our state could have 40,000 people in intensive care. That would overwhelm hospitals, which statewide have just 3,000 intensive care unit beds with ventilators, which are needed for severe COVID-19 cases.

Time will tell whether, in two weeks, the numbers of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths keeps spiking, as they they been, or if they level out. Keeping up this quarantine order will help slow the spread. But as we listen to these two leaders, we have to note that Cuomo is the one listening to medical experts and doing what they recommend, not what he feels like or what makes people feel good.

This has nothing to do with politics. Our state’s governor is a Democrat, but many Republican governors have enacted stay-at-home orders as well — such as in West Virginia, even though that state had just 20 confirmed cases compared to New York’s 21,689 as of Tuesday evening (according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). It’s just about looking at the facts on the ground and taking precautions to protect your people — and that’s not partisan. 

Consistency matters, too. Two weeks ago Trump was saying his administration had the virus under control and that it was less severe than the seasonal flu. That turned out not to be true. Then last week he started to take it more seriously, unveiling 15 days of social distancing recommendations — many governors went further and made them requirements — and saying, “Each and every one of us has a critical role to play in stopping the spread and transmission of the virus.” Now he sounds like an antsy patient who can’t wait to bust out of the hospital.

We urge our readers to stay calm and heed the warnings of medical experts. Knowledge is power because it helps show what will work and what won’t. Look at the difference between South Korea, which aggressively restricted people and got away with relatively few deaths, and Italy, which was caught unprepared and now has nearly 7,000 dead.

As of Tuesday COVID-19 had killed 544 in the U.S., according to the CDC — including the first in New York’s Capital Region this week — and 16,231 worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. It’s just getting rolling, gaining momentum daily. We want to avoid this becoming like the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed 675,000 Americans and at least 50 million worldwide, according to the CDC.

Please don’t give in to the itch to get out and about any time soon. Sure, we all want our lives to get back to normal, but not if it means more people die — people we know and love. Yes, sometimes quarantine stinks. But if we all do a good job of it, the death toll could be in the thousands or tens of thousands, instead of the hundreds of thousands or millions.

How long? We don’t know. No one does, and we should be skeptical of rosy predictions without evidence. Wishful thinking gives only brief comfort.

The reason it isn’t worse now is that we are readjusting our lives to prevent the spread. We have to. Doctors’ orders.

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