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When people ask how to protect themselves against the spread of COVID-19, one of the first suggestions from doctors is washing your hands. Here are the do's and don'ts. USA TODAY

The American people have already pulled together in so many ways in response to this virus, just as we’ve always done during other challenging times.

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In the fight against the coronavirus, the Trump administration is not just taking a whole of government approach, but a whole of America approach.

We’ve worked seamlessly with state and local leaders from both political parties. Since January, we’ve held 36 briefings with more than 15,000 state, local and tribal leaders from every state and territory in America. And that is in addition to thousands of individual conversations with state, local, and tribal officials.

A vaccine for the coronavirus has already begun a phase 1 clinical trial. The president has dramatically expanded access to telemedicine for seniors on Medicare. And the Health and Human Services Department is collaborating with Johnson & Johnson to develop treatments for coronavirus infections, while actively soliciting proposals for other medical products to help combat the virus.

Average American at low risk

The risk of serious illness for the average American remains low. But the risk is heavily weighted to the elderly with underlying health conditions.

Now is a critical time. As the president said on Monday, over the next two weeks, there are actions that every American can and should take to help us slow the spread of the coronavirus. If we succeed in limiting the number of new cases, then we can dedicate more resources to the most vulnerable and save lives.

As the president said, if you or anyone in your household is sick, then please stay home. The elderly and those with serious health conditions should also stay home and stay away from other people, even if they do not have symptoms of the coronavirus.

No one should visit a nursing home, retirement home or long-term care facility unless to provide necessary care. All Americans should avoid unnecessary travel, restaurants, bars, public food courts and gathering in groups of more than 10 people. Kids should stay home from school, and Americans who do not work in our critical infrastructure — like health care or pharmaceuticals — should work from home.

It’s always a good idea to practice common sense to protect your health and the health of your family, but it’s especially important right now. Use good hygiene. Wash your hands, especially after touching frequently used surfaces like doorknobs.

Small steps, big impact

Use disinfectant on frequently used items and surfaces. Avoid touching your face. If you have to sneeze, then use a tissue or the inside of your elbow.

These steps might seem small, but they can make a big difference for your family, your community and our country. Stopping the spread of the coronavirus over these next two weeks can prevent many more cases in the future and even save the lives of those at risk.

More: FDA commissioner: Be wary of anyone claiming they can cure COVID-19. Talk to your doctor.

The president and I are deeply proud that the American people have already pulled together in so many ways in response to this virus, just as we’ve always done during other challenging times in our history. The president and I have been especially pleased to see churches and businesses come forward to help those in need. We have personally met with leaders from the manufacturing, cruiseline, airline and tourism industries, and many more. On a daily basis, America’s CEOs have been calling us to ask how they can help.

In the weeks ahead, President Trump and this administration will continue to take strong action to protect the American people, and we will continue to build on the partnerships that we’ve forged with state and local governments, as well as with the scientific and business communities.

But for all of these important steps, there is no substitute for the action of the American people. If all of us can take these important steps requested by the president over the next two weeks, then we can be confident that we will get through this, and we will see a better, healthier future for America.

Mike Pence is the vice president of the United States and chairman of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

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