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Keep up the social distancing


Two weeks ago, one South Shore school board member issued an urgent appeal to students in her district: Stop congregating. Stay apart.

That same day, an editor of this paper was riding his bicycle through his neighborhood and couldn’t help notice groups of people gathering on sidewalks. One older man was smoking a cigar in a circle of neighbors. A family was barbecuing in their driveway, welcoming folks from surrounding homes.

These were the initial days after Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a stay-at-home order, which too many people seemed to treat as a mini-vacation. They had no idea what was coming.

In the days that followed, as the number of positive tests for Covid-19 climbed and the sobering death totals began streaming in, people got the message. No longer do they stand side by side or in tight lines in supermarkets. Gone are the barbecues and close clutches of socializing teenagers.

The message was loud of clear: This pandemic is not a hoax. It is very real.

Over this past weekend, however, we learned that Nassau County had the third-highest number of coronavirus cases of any county in the state, surpassing Westchester, where the outbreak began in New York, Manhattan and the Bronx. Only Queens and Brooklyn (a.k.a. Queens and Kings counties) had higher totals.

Nassau’s and Suffolk’s fast-climbing numbers prompted the governor to warn that the outbreak was shifting from New York City to Long Island. As of Monday, more than 15,600 people had tested positive in Nassau.

That figure may very well reflect lax social distancing practices in the days after people were first told to stay home.

We will be tempted to loosen our social distancing practices. It’s hard to remain regimented for weeks on end. We can’t give up, though. There’s simply too much at stake. Forgoing social distancing and sound hygiene practices now would only prolong the crisis.

The pandemic will end. Statewide, we saw hopeful signs on Sunday.

On the other hand, those hopeful signs could be illusory. Hospitalizations and deaths could very well climb again. Which is why we must — must — remain disciplined and continue to practice social distancing.