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One step at a time

If you think about our society as being a COVID-19 patient, we are on the road to recovery.

That does not mean we have recovered. We still have a long way to go. We are not able jump out of bed and run around. But following doctors’ orders has done some good, and now we are able to get up and take a few baby steps.

Just as being confined to bed rest can leave patients with bed sores and deprive them of working to earn a living, our society’s quarantine opened up mental and behavioral health wounds, kneecapped our economy and plunged federal and state government into horrifying deficit spending. It really is important to be active again, but if we don’t do it cautiously, we add fuel to the fire of this disease and invite a new wave of infection and deaths that might be worse than the first.

Our elected leaders debated — sometimes rationally, sometimes not — over how to reopen the economy, region by region, and the end result of that seems to be a rational plan, developed by the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo with input from federal, state and local public officials, as well as business and health leaders.

The plan sets criteria each region needs to meet to reopen: COVID-19 cases need to be declining, and they have to have enough hospital bed capacity, testing and contact tracing. The North Country has met all those criteria, so it can take its first steps starting today.

Also, the plan allows each region to reopen by four phases. Phase 1 includes construction, manufacturing, curbside-pickup retail, hunting and fishing. If our region goes two weeks and still meets state health criteria, we can move to Phase 2, which includes real estate, professional services and more retail. That would start May 29.

In two more weeks — June 12 — we could start Phase 3, which includes restaurants. And if our symptoms go yet another two weeks meeting state benchmarks, we could go to Phase 4 — reopening arts, entertainment, recreation and education — on June 26, the last day of the school year which was supposed to be graduation day for some of the local high schools.

Again, that’s a best-case scenario. To get there, we will have to do all the smart things that prevent the spread of the virus. We will have to socially distance ourselves and wear masks and resist the urge to host and attend gatherings. We will have to not disparage our medical experts and the elected leaders who heed their advice. We will have to, in other words, be good patients and support each other in being good patients, too.

Otherwise, things will get bad again, and we will have wasted all this painful effort. Let’s not do that. Let’s stay on the road to recovery, one step at a time.

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