We can reduce the COVID-19 spread and lessen burden on health care system.

As Americans come to terms with the rapid spread of COVID-19, fear is a natural response.

Yet panic will help no one. Instead, it’s time to come together and commit to following the advice of health care and public officials. Start with staying home as much as possible.

Health experts worry that too many Americans are not taking the coronavirus threat seriously, instead adopting an “it can’t be that bad” attitude. But it is bad. Limiting contact with individuals is a critical step each one of us can take to slow down the spread of the highly contagious virus.

Of course the other well-publicized hygienic efforts matter as well — including thorough hand-washing and sanitizing frequently touched surfaces. And if your work or other legitimate needs require you to leave home — as is clearly the case with first responders and health care professionals — practicing social distancing is strongly advised.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) already had revised its COVID-19 guidelines from avoiding groups of 200 to 50, but on Monday the White House set that number at 10. This no time for large gatherings, even among friends.

Although it will cause significant hardship for business owners and their employees, Gov. Ron DeSantis appropriately moved Friday to close restaurants and bars, although takeout, delivery and drive-through food sales can continue.

In additional to staying home, relying on trusted sources of information — such as the CDC, Florida Department of Health, Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins Hospital — is critical. Sadly, there is false, predatory and sometime dangerous material spreading online as fast as the virus itself. Beware of scams about phony cures, fake coronavirus test kits or “miracle” drugs.

As Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has pointed out, state residents should be on the lookout for scammers trying to take advantage of the pandemic. She said fraudulent groups may pose as charities soliciting donations and that people should only donate to reputable organizations.

Price-gouging essentials like food and medical supplies may happen and should be reported to the state.

Even with the emphasis on distancing, we should take care to try to care for those for whom social isolation can exacerbate loneliness and depression. Try to stay connected online or by phone.

Keep in mind that older family members, friends and neighbors are at a higher risk to become seriously ill from the virus. If you’re healthy and not at risk, follow the examples of some younger adults who are offering to pick up supplies and food for their elderly neighbors.

We’re in this together, but for now the best way to contribute to public health is to stay apart.

A revised editorial from the Minneapolis Star Tribune.