The issue: We are at war with the COVID-19 pandemic.

What we think: Those sheltering in place are on active duty.

Tell us what you think: Send us an email at editorial@csbj.com.

It’s spring: Have you planted your victory garden?

We’re not talking veggies, of course — this is about pitching in to save the country.

President Donald Trump is calling himself a wartime president, and given that COVID-19 has brought the nation to its knees, that seems reasonable. 

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There are more than 1.46 million confirmed cases worldwide and more than 85,397 deaths as of April 8. 

Yes, it’s a war. 

As such, the federal government needs to step up and treat its citizenry like active-duty personnel. It must equip front-line health care workers, grocery clerks and other essential employees who are facing catastrophic personal risks. And it must pay those who have given up their livelihoods to shelter in place. For most, the marching orders have been to “stay home.” But that comes at a dramatic cost.

What about that $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package? 

That’s just a one-time buy. Up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child doesn’t go far enough. With housing at a premium on the Front Range, $1,200 may pay one month’s rent. And if we are facing stay-at-home orders past April, many unemployed Coloradans may not make ends meet in May. 

There’s more than one way to tackle this need — New York Times columnist David Brooks points to measures taken by European nations: “They’re preserving the businesses. They’re keeping people employed. They’re just paying businesses: ‘We’re going to give you some money — but you’re going to keep your payroll,’” he told PBS Newshour. “So people don’t have the threat of unemployment … they don’t have the possibility that they will never get a job again or they won’t get a job for a long time. They just sort of freeze the economy. And we didn’t do that.”

It’s cheaper to shore up an economy than to rebuild it after collapse. And we’re now in unprecedented territory, facing both a pandemic and a recession that could rival the Great Depression. Factor in the cost of basic health care, the projected hikes in insurance premiums, the loss of productivity and the social cost of having an entire nation living on a shoestring, and the long-term expense of this virus will far exceed the cost of paying sequestered Americans a livable wage. 

How do we do it? It’s worth noting that the stimulus package included more than $25 billion in bailouts for the U.S. passenger airline industry alone.  That is enough to pay 700,000 newly unemployed the equivalent of $15 per hour ($31,200 per year) for an entire year.

But don’t consider it a handout. If we’re getting paid to be home, we should all roll up our sleeves and get to work. 

• Give your time and talents. Nonprofits like Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado and Silver Key Senior Services need volunteers, donations and support. They’re making it possible to volunteer while social distancing.

• Donate blood. The state’s supply is shrinking fast during the pandemic. Centura Health announced in March it was starting mobile blood drives due to social distancing. 

• Call Congress — often — and make your voice heard. Tell them how you feel about the lack of personal protective equipment and testing, about protecting health care workers and first responders, about unemployment benefits and the stimulus — and the need for independent oversight of the $2 trillion in coronavirus relief funds. They’re making decisions about your future. Make sure they listen.

• Make masks, gowns and other personal protective equipment to donate. Critical shortages of PPE endanger health care providers and risk prolonging the pandemic. On April 3, Gov. Jared Polis called on all Coloradans to wear non-medical masks if they must leave their homes. Making those fabric masks will leave more available to hospitals. 

• Volunteer with a political or get-out-the-vote campaign. This is a hugely important election year. Candidates need your help getting their messages to the voters.

• Fact check. Don’t spread that second contagion — rampant misinformation. It could be the difference between life and death down the line. 

It’s time to act. Like the Greatest Generation, which supplemented wartime rations by planting victory gardens, we can all do our part. Together, we will win this war. 

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