For several weeks now, the Brainerd Dispatch has been reporting on the escalating rise in COVID-19 cases in the area.

On Monday, Nov. 16, it was reported Crow Wing County’s 14-day case count exceeded 1,000 for the first time. The 1,090 cases reported in that two-week period account for nearly half, or 45%, of all of the county’s confirmed COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

Those numbers — hundreds of new cases a day, more hospitalizations, more deaths — are more than concerning. They demand action, which is why we felt Gov. Tim Walz’s latest initiatives to temporarily limit gatherings, announced last week and furthered Wednesday, are an unfortunate necessity.

Related: Walz announces 4-week closure for bars, restaurants, gyms: 'Much has been asked of you. And I need to ask a little more'

It’s well past time more Minnesota residents see the pandemic for what it is — a national health emergency — instead of what they want to believe it is, whether that it’s a myth, an overreaction, an overreach or simply a political machination.

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COVID-19 doesn’t care about political affiliation or personal beliefs — it’s an equal opportunity infector. And the explosion of cases doesn’t look like it will be going away any time soon if we stay on the course we are following.

Whether you believe in the severity of the pandemic or not, there’s no denying our hospitals are filling up and could soon be at a breaking point. Wasn’t that the whole idea behind March’s lockdown in the first place?

Related: Local restaurants/bars grimly prepare for second closure of indoor dining

The simple truth is, we can’t continue on this trajectory or it will be the virus, not the state, that will shut us down.

Certainly we don’t like the idea of bars, restaurants or gyms reclosing; sports being canceled; or missing out on get-togethers and holidays with family and friends for the next four weeks. The idea is depressing, but not as much as losing a loved one to COVID-19 would be.

We also agree with Walz that a complete shutdown would be devastating to many or our local businesses and the people who rely on them for their livelihoods. We still need to support our local businesses in any way we can, to keep our economy going as best we can. We just have to be smarter on how we do it, or there won’t be much of an economy to protect.

That’s why we ask Brainerd area residents and people throughout the state to simply follow the sage advice we all were given months ago — if out in public stay socially distant, wear face masks and wash and sanitize your hands regularly. And if you feel sick, or may have been in contact with someone who was infected, please stay home.

For us, it’s a simple sign of respect for others. Remember, it’s not just about you and your health, it’s about doing what we can to protect the health and well-being of others, whether those people are strangers or our family.

We need to be willing to make sacrifices for our community, for the greater good. That’s the patriotic thing to do. Yes, there are potentially two viable vaccines on the horizon. But until we get there, we all — all of us — need to do our part.

It’s well past time for all to be a part of the solution, not the problem.