Eastern Oregonians are typically an independent bunch who take great pride in overcoming challenges, from natural disasters to forest fires to economic downturns.

Our independence is a hallmark of a great culture, and it is one that resents outside interference or government overreach. We carry a muted skepticism of government, a sentiment rooted in the very foundations of our nation.

We now face a steep challenge regarding the COVID-19 virus, and now is the time we must put away any inherent distrust of government and start listening to what our elected and appointed leaders and health officials are telling us.

The COVID-19 virus isn’t a conspiracy. It isn’t make believe. It isn’t part of some bizarre political plot to unseat the president. And it isn’t “just like the flu.”

For one, the common influenza virus isn’t exactly a walk in the park if you happen to come down with it. It kills thousands of people every year and puts healthy people out of action for weeks. Comparing COVID-19 to influenza isn’t really any comparison at all.

True, statistics show now that most of us, if we happen to fall victim to COVID-19, will suffer mild symptoms. That fact, though, has never really been the point. The COVID-19 virus is very dangerous to older folks and those with underlying health conditions. At the same time, the American medical system isn’t geared to take on a massive pandemic. That’s been the point all along — there might not be health care available for those who need it.

The measures instituted by the government and by states, including Oregon, are methods to save the lives of people that are the most vulnerable.

The closing down of restaurants and social distancing measures are to protect everyone, but especially those who are the most vulnerable.

That is why we all must pay very close attention to what our president is telling us and what his deputies are saying. We can’t shrug this off as just another common malady, like a head cold, because it’s not.

If we can mitigate the spread of this virus then we can buy ourselves time to develop a vaccine or treatment without an undue loss of life. If we ignore the guidance from our governor and our president, then we are simply putting other people’s lives — and maybe even our own — in danger. It is really that simple.

Our independence is a treasured piece of our culture. Now, though, is the time for all to heed the warnings and guidance from our government.

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