I hope you and your loved ones are staying safe in these unsettled times.

Thank you — for staying at home, for avoiding unnecessary contacts and for changing your behavior so we can preserve and save lives from the threat we continue to face. 

Like you, I wonder if I washed my hands enough, if I distanced myself enough, and if I am doing my full part to slow the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve. And what is enough?

This virus may be new, but the effective way to respond to it isn’t: Social-distancing is the most effective way to respond. But how much is enough social-distancing? We know from science and experience that you can’t cheat, not even a little! No neighbors or guests over, no dinners/drinks with a friend, no unnecessary trips to the grocery store. If anyone in your household puts themselves at risk, everyone in the house is at risk. The right reaction is not overreaction.

We have lost precious time to prepare for this war. Here are the facts: We were slow to recognize the scope and severity of the virus in our country; we lack an adequate supply of personal protective equipment for our health workers; we lack a sufficient number of test kits to diagnose those who are infected; and we lack designated areas to isolate those who test positive for COVID-19.

Like you, I am worried for my own family, friends, and of course, the health, safety and vitality of the members of our community. As mayor, my highest duty is to protect the health and the safety of our community. This is why I am writing to everyone.

In the 1918 flu pandemic, cities that ordered social-distancing sooner and for longer periods flattened the curve, lowered the overall death rate, and shortened the time before life was able to safely return to normal. This is science and what history teaches us. COVID-19 is new but the effective, lifesaving way to respond isn’t.

As a child, I grew up in a war zone. In war you hear the soldiers, tanks, planes, and bombs, and you smell the gunfire. You see the smoke, the pain and the bloodshed. This war is very different — silent and invisible, but no less deadly.

This virus does not rest, it does not follow a schedule, and most of all it does not discriminate in choosing its victims. Each and every one of us is at risk. 

 And in this war people are going to lose their loved ones — more people will get sick and some will die. We may get discouraged and may think the measures we are taking are not working or they’ve gone on long enough. This would be surrendering the progress we’ve made so far in the early days of our battle and would give the virus more victims to attack. 

I urge everyone to stay committed and unified. We are saving lives by adhering to strict social-distancing and following the public health guidelines. Flattening the curve is the most effective way to respond. It provides time for development of a vaccine, lessens the strain on our health workers and health system, and enables us to win the war against this invisible killer.

Let us keep in our thoughts and prayers those who have contracted this disease, as well as all the health workers and first responders. Those are the true heroes; they risk their lives to protect ours.

Understand that we will face very difficult times in the coming weeks. We have the capacity to care for one another and we need to do just that. Let us be kind to each other and let us have faith. I am confident that we are going to get through this together, emerge stronger, and live to tell stories of courage, resilience and compassion.

Anan Abu-Taleb is mayor of the village of Oak Park.

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