Last week, two local elected officials — Dothan Mayor Mark Saliba and Houston County Commission Chairman Mark Culver — held a news conference with local hospital representatives to deliver news no one wants to hear: Positive coronavirus cases are beginning to surge again in the Wiregrass.

While messages from public officials at various levels and health professions have seemed mixed, those leading Thursday’s briefing spoke with one distinct voice: It appears we are heading for another peak; wear masks, maintain physical distance, and take every precaution to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

We join the chorus to underscore the gravity of this public health threat. In a few short weeks, the number of deaths from COVID-19 has exploded, from a handful in early March to more than 100,000 nationwide this past week. From Montgomery, Gov. Kay Ivey issued a stay-at-home order of sorts and began then relaxing it by degrees. Before Memorial Day, she further eased restrictions on restaurant dining rooms, even as cases in the capital city were skyrocketing.

We understand the negative effect the shutdown is having on the economy, from corporate America to the dinner table. We’ve seen small businesses crippled and felled. But there must be a thoughtful and nuanced approach to “opening back up,” and local officials understand that.

On Thursday, Saliba said that discussions among leaders have included public safety and economic repercussions, and the goal is to find a way to return to normal as safely as possible.

That should be the goal of everyone. A contagion respects no socio-economic theory or political stance. Constitutional arguments have no effect. The best approach is to follow the recommendations of the scientists who are steeped in the best practices of public health. Wear a mask. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently. Maintain a 6-foot physical distance from others. And if you think you have symptoms or have been exposed, stay home.

The sooner COVID-19 is vanquished, the better off we’ll all be.

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