A big red flag went up at noon Tuesday.

That’s when the state Department of Health announced that 17 new cases of the coronavirus had been recorded within a 24-hour period in the Central Susquehanna Valley — nine in Northumberland County, four in Union County, three in Snyder County and one in Montour County. There were another 11 cases on Wednesday.

Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator serving with a team of experts on the White House COVID-19 task force, has been analyzing virus data for every county and state in the nation for the past four months. During an interview a few days ago, she said her team watches for even the slightest uptick in positive cases as an early signal that the coronavirus may be starting to spread within a region.

Our local uptick — the largest two-day increase in the region since April 12-14 — along with a continuing increase in new cases across the state, are sending a clear signal to double down on our individual efforts to slow the spread of this deadly virus right here in the heart of the Valley.

Medical experts have laid out clear explanations on how the virus spreads from person to person and easy-to-follow guidelines on how to stop it.

Most of us have heard these words of wisdom from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) before, but it appears to be a good time for a review.

The coronavirus is spread through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks or sings. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Most of the transmissions of these droplets occur between people who are within six feet of each other, and studies have suggested that COVID-19 can be spread by people who have shown no symptoms of the illness.

To directly address these conditions, the CDC recommends:

n Avoiding close contact. Put at least six feet of distance between yourself and people who don’t live in your household. 

n Wear a face covering or mask over your mouth and nose when you cannot maintain six feet of distance from others. “A cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing,” the CDC writes.

n Cover all coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Throw all tissues in the trash.

n Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have coughed or sneezed, before eating or preparing food, after using the restroom, after leaving a public place, after handling your cloth facial covering and after touching pets or animals. If soap and water is not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

n Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks.

n Monitor your health. Be alert for fever, cough, shortness of breath or other symptoms, and take your temperature if any of these symptoms develop.

We pay attention when red flags go up on the beach, knowing that it’s dangerous to enter turbulent waters. The COVID-19 red flags are still up. In consideration for family members, friends and neighbors, let’s all maintain full efforts to stay on safer ground.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Digital Editor Dave Hilliard.

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