Sisters, like the rest of Oregon, is under a mandate for everyone to wear a face covering in indoor public spaces, like the bank or the grocery store.

The mandate comes in response to a surge in cases of COVID-19 across much of the state — including here in Central Oregon. Sisters has recorded its first confirmed cases since the pandemic began, and St. Charles reported nearly doubling its hospitalizations in a 24-hour period last Friday.

None of this is a cause for panic — increased cases were an inevitable development with the reopening of economic and social activity, and the caseload reflects both actual increased community spread and better diagnosis through significantly increased testing. Cases will continue to climb along with contact tracing and the number of tests performed. That’s expected and a cause for reasonable precaution, but not for undue fear.

There’s some good news — the mortality rate is not increasing. The total daily number of deaths hovers between 500 and 1,000 currently.* That’s a thousand losses to a thousand families and should not be treated cavalierly. But the threat of COVID-19 as a killer scourge seems to be gradually receding.

We are learning to live with COVID-19, and that means adapting our behaviors.

Wearing a mask won’t prevent the spread of COVID-19, but it has been shown to reduce the radius of dispersion of the respiratory droplets that carry the virus. Health officials believe that, in combination with physical distancing and thorough and frequent hand-washing, wearing the mask can slow the spread of COVID-19 — while still allowing for something resembling a “normal” economic and social life.

The need for such measures may last until there is a vaccine or until we reach herd immunity.

Sisters businesses need for all of us to comply with the mandate. Like it or not, believe in it or not, they’re responsible for enforcing the mandate, and they need our support, not complaints or belligerence.

Nobody likes wearing a mask, and being ordered to do so raises the hackles on folks who prize individual liberty and the right to make our own choices. But the inconvenience of donning a face covering to go to the grocery store pales in comparison to the impact of shutting bars and restaurants down again, as the governors of Texas and California recently did in response to significant surges in those state.

The survival of many of our local businesses could be at stake here.

Do it as a reasonable precaution; do it because you’re a good neighbor and want to help local businesses and their employees make it through these strange and turbulent times.

Wear your mask.

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

* In The Nugget’s July 8 print edition of this editorial, the daily death toll from coronavirus was cited as totaling about 1,000 for all age groups. It is more accurate to state that — allowing for a couple of spikes well above 1,000 — the daily number has hovered between 500 and 1,000 through most of June and into July, (down from peaking at 4,900 in a single day on April 16).

The significant takeaway is that death rate is not increasing along with the increase in cases.