This week, local officials have taken some unprecedented steps, at least in our lifetimes, to slow the spread of the virus COVID-19, also known as novel coronavirus.

As of Tuesday morning, the Mississippi Department of Health is reporting 320 cases in 56 of the state’s 82 counties. That number rose by 71 cases overnight. The day before, the number of reported cases jumped by 42. That number is expected to climb as tests for the virus become more readily available.

As of Tuesday, Itawamba County has three reported cases.

The Center for Disease Control has recommended social distancing, or keeping a physical distance between yourself and other people, as the best way to keep the virus from spreading. Novel coronavirus spreads most easily from person-to-person contact. Avoiding gatherings, even small ones, is the best way to contain the virus.

On Monday, the City of Fulton joined other Northeast Mississippi cities like Tupelo, Pontotoc and Amory in setting strict guidelines for its local businesses that will help limit gatherings of people. Business like boutiques, barbershops and salons, even some factories, are to remain closed until April 15. Essential businesses like grocery stores, gas stations and medical clinics may remain open as long as they continue to follow CDC guidelines for preventing the spread of the virus. The city has also closed all of its parks and has restricted its restaurants to curbside or delivery services.

People seem largely willing to comply with these guidelines, understanding them to be essential preventive measures that will hopefully ensure the long-term health of our community. But we’ve also seen some grousing online and realize there are those who feel these measures go too far and the response, both on a local and national level, excessive … maybe even alarmist.

We’re reminded of an adage: An once of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We’ve seen how COVID-19 has affected China, Italy, and Spain. We’ve seen the rising death toll and the photographs of overstuffed hospitals. If we’re to stop those scenes from playing out in our own backyard, we have to act now. And experts say the best way to do that is simple: Stay at home. Limit your travel to and from essential businesses. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face.

We commend our local leaders for doing their part to encourage social distancing, and are hearts go out to local business owners and workers who are struggling during these uncertain times. And while some may find these preventative measures constrictive, we’d argue the alternative – going on with life as normal – would inevitably be far, far worse.

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