These are challenging times for our state, our country and our world. The most important thing we can do to get past these times is to stay home, whenever possible, for the time being.


I know Coloradans are upset, frustrated and anxious about coronavirus, and about how the necessary response to this threat is upending our precious Colorado way of life.


I want you to know that my administration is working tirelessly to help stop the spread in Colorado and end the disruptions to earning a living sooner rather than later.


On March 10, I declared a state of emergency in Colorado, which temporarily grants the governor broad authority and flexibility under the Colorado Disaster Emergency Act to respond to rapidly unfolding events and keep residents safe during emergencies.


This authority has been been invoked frequently — sometimes a dozen times per year — by Colorado governors of both parties to deal with various crises including the Hayman fire, the South Platte Basin drought, the 2013 floods, the H1N1 flu response and countless fires, floods, rock slides, tornadoes and other emergencies. In all of these situations, time is of the essence and the ability to make decisions quickly can save lives.


That is exactly the type of response that the coronavirus has demanded, with thousands of cases in Colorado and dozens of deaths already. We are in a race against the clock to prevent an even greater catastrophic loss of human life and even greater destruction of our economy and jobs.


Our task is to defeat an invisible enemy: an extremely contagious virus that is spread through person-to-person interactions.


The fewer social interactions that we have with one another, the fewer opportunities there are for people to spread the virus to others. The more we are able to stay at home, the sooner this will end.


The drastic measures we have taken to reduce in-person interactions, from closing schools, to closing bars and restaurants, to the stay-at-home order I issued a few days ago, are all designed to slow the spread of the virus and speed up our return to productivity and safety.


Each step we take is informed by the best data available and by the experiences of other countries.


And we have had to act quickly, because our goal is not only to reduce the number of infections overall, but to prevent a surge of simultaneous infections that could overwhelm our health care system.


A pandemic like this puts enormous strain on public health resources ― facilities, equipment and personnel.


If too many people get sick at once, we won’t have enough hospital beds, ventilators, doctors, nurses or personal protective equipment to handle all of the critically ill patients.


In Italy right now, too many people became severely ill all at once. Italian doctors are being forced to make wartime triage decisions about who gets a hospital bed and who doesn’t; who gets a ventilator, and who doesn’t; who lives, and who doesn’t.


The failure to act swiftly has not only killed more than 10,000 Italians, but it has led to an even longer shutdown of businesses and commerce, further plunging their economy into free fall.


That is the nightmare scenario that we are working around the clock to avoid here in Colorado.


We’re doing everything we can to recruit more health care workers, obtain more equipment and build more hospital beds.


We’re working with the federal government, local governments, nonprofits, the private sector ― anyone and everyone who can help us get through this time of need.


And we’re taking these extraordinary, yet temporary, steps to reduce social interactions until we can get the rate of infection down to a level that our health care system can handle.


The better job we do at swiftly containing this virus, the sooner we can lift these restrictions and the sooner we can return to a level of normalcy in our society and our economy.


That’s where you come in. It’s going to take all of us acting responsibly together to prevent the spread of this deadly virus.


So please, stay home unless it’s absolutely necessary.


If you have to go out, make sure you wash your hands frequently, avoid touching surfaces, avoid touching your face and keep a six-foot distance between you and others.


Go to the grocery store once a week instead of twice, or even every two weeks, and don’t hoard food or supplies.


Donate to the COVID-19 Relief Fund if you have the means and please sign up to volunteer to help at HelpColoradoNow.org. We need you.


I know that these times are tough. But they are temporary.


And I have confidence that Pueblo will live up to its name as America’s Home of Heroes once again, doing right by fellow Coloradans so that we can defeat this virus together.


Do your part and just stay home.


Do it for the out-of-work waiter who wants to go back to work as soon as possible to put food on the table.


Do it for the doctor who puts on a mask and a gown every day, working shift after shift at the hospital, knowing that she might get sick saving the lives of others.


Do it for your neighbor with underlying medical conditions, terrified to go outside for fear of contracting this deadly virus.


Do it for your parents, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles, your cousins, your friends.


Do it for yourself. It could save your life.


At the end of the day, there’s only so much one government can do. The person with the greatest power to reduce the spread of the virus … is you.


So take your responsibility seriously. Let’s get through this together. And I promise you Colorado will come out stronger on the other side, together.


Jared Polis is the governor of Colorado.