Now the rubber hits the road.

Winston-Salem residents have been ordered to stay at home, except for essential purposes, beginning at 5 p.m. tomorrow. The order lasts through April 16. It’s an order we must all take seriously to defeat the threat of the coronavirus.

The order was released by Mayor Allen Joines on Wednesday afternoon, following the advice of medical professionals, under authority vested by the city and the state. Clemmons has also ordered its residents to shelter in place, as have Guilford, Wake, Durham and Mecklenburg counties, and perhaps others by now.

Some saw this coming, as more city and area residents were reported to be ill from COVID-19. Some suspected this would happen eventually, given the expectations of the virus’ spread.

It’s still a disturbing reality check and brings the issue home as, perhaps, it hasn’t before.

There are at least 17 cases of coronavirus in Forsyth County, three of which can be attributed to community spread, the Journal’s Lee O. Sanderlin reports in today’s Journal. There are more than 500 cases of coronavirus in North Carolina, and at least two people are dead because of it. The stay-at-home order is justified and must be respected.

According to the order, residents will be allowed to leave their homes:

  • For their health and safety, such as when seeking medical services or obtaining medical supplies.
  • To purchase necessary supplies and services, including groceries and food, household consumer products and supplies they need to work from home.
  • For outdoor activity, including walking, hiking and cycling. Residents may visit city parks, but playgrounds have been ordered closed because they may increase the spread of the virus.
  • To perform work providing essential products and services as defined in the order, including health care, essential government operations and essential infrastructure.
  • To take care of others, including family members and friends.

But for all other purposes, especially of a social nature, residents must stay at home.

An order like this can be frightening. But we should keep in mind that if we follow it, the vast majority of us will be safe. The only way coronavirus can hurt us is if we’re exposed to it.

The coronavirus is not a threat that can be defeated by defiance or good health. It can’t be defeated by willpower or positive thinking. It can only be defeated by avoidance and breaking the chain of contact.

It’s going to be difficult to stay home. We’re not only social creatures, but we can be worrisome creatures, too. We may feel like something is going on out there and we need to be a part of it.

But we can do it. We can stay at home. We can maintain social contact — and gain moral support — via email, text, tweet or phone.

Some have been preparing for a while now, stocking up (more than we should) on food and toilet paper, as well as books, videogames, puzzles and other support tools. Home projects abound. The internet is paid up. We can do it.

Our police force and other first responders will be on the streets, ready to help where and when they’re needed. Their jobs are difficult to start with — this is no time to make them more difficult by leaving home frivolously. Respect the order.

Health care workers are already overextended and working with a shortage of medical supplies — don’t make their jobs more difficult. Respect the order.

At a time like this, we can all lean on our friends, family members and other associates. Supporting each other, we’ll get through this.

But everyone must take the order seriously. Don’t risk your life or anyone else’s. Stay at home.

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