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What’s next?

Now the people of Illinois — not to mention those in other areas of the country — are really in uncharted territory.

“Shelter in place” sounds so much nicer than calling it a “lockdown,” and it probably is. But it won’t be long before many people are going to start to feel like prisoners in their own home following Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Friday announcement.

One news accounted that Pritzker is “essentially commanding residents to stay in their homes” as a means of slowing down the spread of the coronavirus. To call this a “drastic” measure hardly does it credit to the monumental nature of his action.

There are, of course, some exceptions to Pritzker’s edict. People can still go out — if they are headed to grocery stores, the gas station or the pharmacy. The state even is permitting people to take walks. Local roads and interstate highways will remain open.

But the fact is that Pritzker is depending on people voluntarily complying with his directive that they stay home. Given the circumstances, everyone would be best served if they do — to the extent they can stand it — as the governor asks. New York and California already have announced a similar shutdown of their states. More will certainly follow, just how many more remains to be seen.

Many people probably will not like Pritzker’s decision. But given the circumstances, it’s hard to quarrel with it. The epidemiological possibilities of the coronavirus fall within the exclusive province of experts. Ignoring their warnings entails risks that no rational person would want to assume.

They’ve spoken, and Pritzker has listened. Who in his shoes would do otherwise?

That’s why Pritzker’s decision represents a dramatic escalation of the restrictions he already imposed to limit the spread of the virus. The governor previously shut down K-12 schools, both public and private, and directed bars and restaurants to close.

Numbers released by the Illinois Department of Public Health explain Pritzker’s thinking.

The department estimates that Illinois will have 3,400 new coronavirus cases by late this week, an eightfold increase. At that rate, it wouldn’t take long for the number of coronavirus cases to explode among Illinois’ population of roughly 12.5 million people.

But that doesn’t have to be the case, and it won’t be if Pritzker’s measures have the intended effect.

But there’s much more to shelter-in-place than just announcing it.

How will the public respond? Pritzker warned against people rushing to grocery stores and clearing the shelves, and there’s no need for them to do so. The stores will remain open and stocked by their suppliers.

But human nature can be tricky, and this situation calls for clear thinking.

It also calls for patience. Staying at home usually is fine, but not necessarily fine if that’s all people are allowed to do.

This is going to be stressful in a variety of ways, and adults need to consider how they and their children will cope with it.

What’s most troubling about our current circumstances is its open-ended nature.

How long is this going to last?

Unfortunately, there are more good questions than there are good answers about this new dynamic.

It’s unprecedented in almost everyone’s experience. In that sense, it’s a test of our collective and individual characters that we cannot fail.