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Social distancing is unpleasant, and it's really bad for the economy. But it'll be with us a while longer.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Congregants at the Neighborhood Church in Stafford take in an Easter Sunday service and musical performance on April 12 from their cars in the parking lot. This isn't how anyone would prefer to celebrate what should be a joyous time for coming together, but it's a symbol of how people are getting creative as they do what they can to make this period of social distancing more bearable."It's not going to be easy, and it will take longer than we want."

That was the "money quote" from Gov. Kate Brown's press conference Tuesday on what Oregon needs in order to "re-open" for business.

There's no way around it: This is frustrating. But it's also not surprising. We already knew schools wouldn't resume as normal until at least this fall. We've already seen some popular summer events, including the Tigard Festival of Balloons and the Waterfront Blues Fest in Portland, canceled.

This isn't being done for no reason. We're dealing with a virulent virus that we haven't seen before and haven't observed for long enough to really know some important things: How does seasonal variation in temperature or humidity affect viral transmission? How contagious are people who have been infected but don't show symptoms? How long does a person retain immunity to re-infection after recovering from the virus? Having answers to these questions would surely help in planning for and modeling this pandemic.

Read our story on Gov. Kate Brown's press conference April 14, 2020, on eventually ending social distancing policies.

Some suggest this shutdown is an overreaction to a virus that has claimed fewer than 100 lives in Oregon. However, all modeling suggests that if not for the shutdown, there would be several times as many cases, and several times as many deaths — potentially leading to the health system being overwhelmed and suffering a catastrophic drop in its ability to treat other patients as well. The mark of effective mitigation is that it seems like an overreaction, because the worst outcome it was designed to avert has, in fact, been averted.

There are dark whispers in some quarters that the shutdown is somehow politically motivated, or that the media is inciting "hysteria" over the virus for political reasons. This is hogwash. This economic shutdown is painful and wide-reaching. The handful of businesses that stand to benefit from a shutdown is dwarfed by those that are hurting right now. COVID-19 isn't a conspiracy to boost companies that make remote conferencing or distance learning software. Brown and other governors aren't deliberately tanking their own economies and blowing up their own budgets to make President Donald Trump "look bad."

Any disaster will bring out the tin foil hats and poorly edited YouTube videos, and this pandemic is no exception. We must focus on what is actionable and what is true.

Unfortunately, the truth is that this will go on a while longer. Maybe we can begin to trickle back into restaurants and libraries this time in May. Maybe it will be June. Hopefully it won't be July — but we don't know right now.

This can't be lost time. We need to continue to scale up our testing capacity in Oregon, along the West Coast and throughout the country. We need tests that show, reliably, who has antibodies that will fight off COVID-19 and who is still vulnerable to infection. We need more information, which can only be gained through observation and study, about how the virus works and what we can expect it to do. Ultimately, we need drugs that can treat, ideally cure, most vitally inoculate against COVID-19.

No one wants this shutdown to continue for any longer than it has to. Workers are suffering, businesses are suffering, students are suffering, families are suffering, the homeless and hungry are suffering. We want our kids to be able to swing on the swing set again. We want to see our friends and loved ones. We want our jobs and hours to be restored.

But a rush to re-open will simply lead to the virus exploding out of control once again. We've flattened the curve, but there are still dozens of new cases every day. It's taken concerted and agonizing effort to flatten that curve.

This virus is still very, very dangerous. We've slowed it down; we have not stopped it. As we re-open, we need to ensure we have the capacity to keep it from spiking again. Right now, we do not have the tools we need to do that, and so we can't re-open.

We're right there with you: Waiting "until further notice" stinks. This is not fun. We're struggling, too. As we wrote on this page last week, we're all in this together.

Refer to our April 9, 2020, editorial on how we are responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

In the meantime, let's continue to find ways to connect without touching. We're going to be stuck inside for a while longer. Already, we've seen — and photographed, and written about — some amazing shows of humanity and innovative approaches to socializing while social distancing. Keep it coming.

This is tough, and it's going to continue to be tough. But when the going gets tough, the tough get going.


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