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Get off the path to a tragedy

Some West Virginians are not being realistic about COVID-19. If you are among them, we beg you to recognize that your attitude is putting others at risk of losing their lives. If you know someone who has not been observing precautions against spreading the virus, we urge you to talk some sense into that person.

On Monday, Gov. Jim Justice issued a “stay at home” order for the entire state, to take effect at 8 p.m. today. In essence, it means that if you do not have to leave your home for a very good purpose, you should remain there.

Like governors of other states where similar action has been taken, Justice’s order is far from draconian. It permits people employed by essential businesses to continue going to work. It allows those who need to leave home to obtain supplies such as food and medicine to do so. Of course, those who need to travel to obtain medical care may leave home.

But to the vast majority of Mountain State residents, the order may seem cataclysmic. They have never experienced anything like it, except, perhaps, during a major snowstorm or in the wake of a disaster such as a flash flood.

Here in the United States, more than 41,000 people had tested positive for the disease by Monday afternoon. More than 500 had died of it.

By the time Justice made his announcement, just 16 cases of the disease had been confirmed in West Virginia. What is most worrisome is that the first COVID-19 cases appear to have resulted from contacts between Mountain State residents and other people outside our state. But on Monday, it was revealed two patients caught the disease from people in their communities.

In fact, we are hearing reports of people attending church services, funerals, bingo games and other gatherings at which crowds make it easy for the coronavirus to jump from person to person.

If such lapses continue, people in our state will die from COVID-19. That is inevitable.

Let us hope Justice’s order does some good — but it cannot accomplish its intended purpose if people continue failing to take COVID-19 seriously. We are on the path to a tragedy in West Virginia. We must get off of it.

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