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Editorial: County will find out whether spike in cases results

One photo shows people sitting at tables outside of a restaurant with food that would normally be served inside. Another shows a crowd of more than a dozen kids playing in the park. A third shows a line of people waiting at a grocery store, most of whom are not wearing masks. In a fourth, a crowd of teenagers have set up a table in the back of a truck parked downtown.

The photos were all sent to the Post by readers in recent days and show that people haven’t waited for a protest or the expiration of the governor’s stay at home order in just a few days to get back to some semblance of normal. Unwise, apathetic, inventive or signs of independent-minded Americans, people in the photos prove there’s a segment of people who still want to go about their normal routines and aren’t particularly interested in guidance from local public health officials to stay home as much as possible or wear masks in public places.

The guidance is intended to prevent an overloaded health care system and minimize the spread of COVID-19, which has hit Rowan County harder than most in North Carolina. Part of that’s due to outbreaks in nursing homes, but there is plenty of blame to go around for people not following social distancing guidelines.

“What about the economy,” asks a protester as an unknown virus finds its way to his or her community.

The economy will only suffer more if the general public doesn’t follow guidelines now. Sure, the chorus of people telling Gov. Roy Cooper to move into his phased reopening will grow if the stay-at-home order isn’t lifted this week, but he and other state officials have outlined clear metrics about case declines and leveling that would allow for a reopening.

“We can’t go to church,” says another protester.

Churches have found ways to keep their congregations engaged in ways like drive-up services, which local law enforcement seem to find within the bounds of Cooper’s order. Practicing a religion doesn’t require being inside of a building with a crowd of other people.

To be clear, polls show most people prefer caution in “reopening” the state. But a smaller segment can still increase what was a slowed pace of positive tests in Rowan County last week.

The slower pace is a good sign. But it’s only one week. There are still more than 200 active cases, and a one-week dip is no reason to “reopen.” The state of North Carolina, meanwhile, does not appear to be experiencing a sustained leveling or 14-day downward trend in cases, as Cooper and state officials required to dial down social distancing.

Whether Cooper lifts the stay-at-home order this week or not, a large swath of people in Rowan County are likely continue doing what they please. We’ll find out shortly whether our health care facilities are able to handle any spike in cases that results.

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