Back in the ’80s, there was a gritty old cop show on TV called “Hill Street Blues.”
At the beginning of each episode, the duty sergeant would read off a list of the cases the officers in his command might face in the coming day, the crime sprees from overnight and the fugitives to look out for, that sort of stuff.
Then as he was wrapping up the meeting and all the officers started scuffling out of their chairs and heading for the dangerous streets of the dirty urban metropolis, he would shout over the din, “Hey! Let’s be careful out there.”
We should keep that in mind today as New York tepidly ventures out into the new post-coronavirus quarantine world with Phase One of the regional reopenings.
Some businesses that have been shuttered or curtailed for the past two months or so are being allowed to reopen, under strict protocols. Other businesses will be allowed to open in the coming months.
It would be easy for us to treat this moment in time as if we’re the first people in line at the amusement park. To rush out in a frenzy, scattering mindlessly to all corners, seeking the adventures of which we’ve long been deprived.
But this isn’t that.
The world we face is still the same dangerous one we’ve been in since March. The one in which we could all be exposed to a potentially deadly disease, one that’s sickened more than 338,000 New Yorkers and killed more than 21,845 so far. One that’s struck 1.44 million Americans and killed nearly 86,000 of us.
The reason we can ease some of the restrictions at this time is because the caution we employed to help reduce the number of new cases. We used the time to adopt new practices of cleanliness and hygiene.
We now wear masks over our faces to help us keep others from catching the disease from us. Our stores have plexiglass windows and markers on the floor to remind us how far to stay apart.
Whereas once it was sufficient to mop the floor, now every surface of virtually every public space is scrubbed and sanitized regularly.
But as we open up the economy, the danger will be even greater, because there will be more of us gathering together, working, talking, touching the same surfaces, breathing the same air.
If we act like the crisis is over and that we’re returning to normal, we could see — as many health professionals have warned about and as evidence in other states has shown — a resurgence of the disease. Perhaps worse than when it started.
We can’t put ourselves at that kind of risk.
We can’t endanger our children and our elderly and other vulnerable populations again by being sloppy and careless.
We can’t put that heavy burden back on the backs of our medical professionals, who bravely stood up against the first wave of the outbreak.
If businesses aren’t ready to take on this new burden, they should wait to open until they are better prepared.
We need to continue to treat this outbreak seriously and double down on the precautions we’ve been taking.
If we don’t do what we need to do now, we’ll be right back where we were. And it won’t be as easy to get back to this place.
So those of you who are allowed, go back to work. Patronize the businesses that reopen.
But be aware of what you’re getting into and act accordingly.
And, hey. Hey! Let’s be careful out there.