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At last a way forward, with care

It appears that Jackson County will be allowed to start reopening some businesses at the end of the week. That’s great news, and will come as a relief to all of us, but it doesn’t mean everything will be back to normal. Far from it.

County residents have done a tremendous job of complying with the governor’s stay-at-home order, and, for the most part, people have learned to practice social distancing. But Friday’s phase one reopening, if it wins final approval, does not mean everyone can start shaking hands again and toss those face masks in the trash.

It means social distancing — maintaining

6 feet of separation from other people whenever possible — and wearing face masks will be even more important, not less. Because reopening, even the limited easing planned for the first phase, will increase the risk that the novel coronavirus will spread more readily and cases will spike.

That is happening already in other states where reopening has proceeded faster than federal guidelines suggest.

That’s why Oregon health officials are insisting that hospitals be prepared to accommodate a rise in cases requiring hospitalizations, should that occur, and asking local officials to document that the county has enough personal protective equipment on hand. It was reassuring to learn that state officials would judge Jackson County’s readiness on its own, not grouped with a health region stretching as far away as Coos and Lane counties.

It’s vitally important that county residents continue to take this pandemic seriously, and to understand why distancing and mask wearing must continue. Skeptics who chafe at the restrictions and question the need for them repeat false and misleading information they have gleaned from internet sources.

Don’t listen to people who say wearing a cloth mask won’t protect you. That’s not the point. Of course it won’t, because it’s not intended to. Cloth masks are to protect others from you, in case you are infected with the virus and don’t know it yet.

The phase one reopening will allow some businesses to resume operating, but not all, and it will be at least three weeks more before phase two arrives, assuming the number of cases stays under control. State guidelines announced Thursday call for 21 days to elapse before moving to phase two.

Residents who are upset about the lockdown and seek to blame state officials for what they see as restrictions on their freedom need to understand that successfully reopening the economy depends on them. If too many people don’t observe the guidelines, that increases the risk that the virus will spread faster and the restrictions will be reimposed.