MARYLAND GOV. Larry Hogan (R) warned this week that the Washington area could soon be as hard-hit as New York City by the coronavirus pandemic. “We’ve doubled over the past just two days, and we look a lot like where New York was just a couple weeks ago,” Hogan said of the rising number of confirmed cases. Experts think “we are just on the next wave of hot spots,” Mr. Hogan cautioned. Whether that prediction comes true depends a lot on how people respond.

Do not respond like Alvin Gwynn Sr., a Baltimore pastor who has been warned by police to stop holding services at the Friendship Baptist Church, but told the Baltimore Sun he intends to keep doing so. Do not respond like Shawn Marshall Myers, of Charles County, who was arrested March 27 after hosting 60 people at his home for a bonfire.

Whether this region turns into a New York-size medical bonfire rests largely on people following the orders to stay at home and practice physical distancing that can stop the chains of virus transmission. That means no more church services or bonfires, please.

The simple purpose of the stricter stay-at-home measures announced this week by Mr. Hogan, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) of Virginia and D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) is to prevent the virus from spreading and avert catastrophic overcrowding of hospitals, which can result in a wave of deaths. Mr. Northam’s order will extend until June 10, well beyond President Trump’s 30-day guidelines in April. Mr. Northam said, “I want to be clear: Do not go out unless you need to go out. This is very different than wanting to go out.”

New York is more densely populated than the Washington area, but overcrowded hospitals and exhausted health-care workers are a serious threat everywhere. Public health experts have released models highlighting possible bottlenecks. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, or IHME, at the University of Washington has published a model that shows Maryland’s crisis peaking April 28, and the state facing a shortage of 1,310 regular hospital beds and 532 intensive care unit beds. These are only projections, which do not account for beds being used otherwise that could be freed up, but it suggests why Mr. Hogan is right to inject urgency into his warnings. The same model shows a much later peak for Virginia, of May 20, and while regular beds are sufficient, a shortfall of 589 ICU beds is forecast. In the District, the peak is April 16, with sufficient regular beds but a shortage of 68 ICU beds.

Wisely, the Montgomery County Council just approved $10 million in additional funding that could be used to convert hospital space if there is a need for extra beds, among other purposes. Other jurisdictions and hospitals would be smart to prepare for the worst. If Washington is in the path of this storm, all of us must take cover, giving the health-care system room to treat the most endangered patients.

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