Public health experts warned for months that the coronavirus is a dangerous global pandemic that cannot be taken lightly. Unfortunately, time has proven the experts right. Over one million people worldwide have died from COVID-19. Over 210,000 American lives have been lost, including roughly 300 of our fellow Western North Carolinians.

If you haven’t abandoned science, facts and common sense, you know what you have to do: Practice social distancing. Wash your hands. And wear a mask.

I’ve said many times during this pandemic that job one for those seeking public office is not putting public health at risk. That’s why I have campaigned responsibly with masks, social distancing and limits on the number of people attending our events.

I have taken that approach since the beginning, because it is the right thing to do for the people of Western North Carolina, even if it has made connecting with voters especially challenging.

The whole world has seen what happens when you don’t take precautions seriously. As I write, the President of the United States is at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center being treated after he tested positive for COVID-19. The first lady has also tested positive. A number of staff in the president’s inner circle have been stricken as well, from senior adviser Hope Hicks to campaign manager Bill Stepien, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, Kellyanne Conway and Chris Christie, who recently helped prepare President Trump for the debate and is now hospitalized in New Jersey.

My wife Lisa and I wish the best for the president, the first lady and all those who are battling this terrible illness worldwide.

We also wish that as a country, we could set aside politics and come together to battle this common enemy that continues to sacrifice lives and livelihoods every day.

We know what we have to do. Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Robert Redfield said recently that, “Face masks are the most important, powerful public health tool we have. … I’ve said if we did it for 6, 8, 10, 12 weeks, we’d bring this pandemic under control.”

The World Health Organization says face masks can reduce the spread of COVID-19 by 85%.

We need to embrace science, and leaders who respect science.

Some politicians claim COVID-19 is no worse than the seasonal flu. They put others at risk by openly defying state mandates meant to protect the public and hold events with large crowds, without wearing masks or social distancing. And that’s even after they’ve seen the president airlifted to Walter Reed for treatment. Madison Cawthorn told WLOS-TV in a recent interview: “Everyone needs to make a personal risk assessment. … I’m not going to tell people they have to wear a mask.”

That, quite frankly, shows a lack of maturity and judgment necessary to react intelligently in a crisis. It’s as dangerous as COVID-19, because recklessness is part of the reason we are seeing the worst infection rates and death toll in the world right here in America. If an individual’s decision only put that individual at risk it would be one thing, but in this pandemic an individual’s decision can place entire communities at risk.

This election is about health care access and availability, keeping our commitment to our veterans, investing in education, protecting the environment, saving the Post Office and Social Security, and more. But it’s also about science and the role science should play in making policy decisions.

Those of us who believe in science and the opinions of experts will use them to guide the formulation of policies to mitigate the damage caused by COVID-19. Those who don’t believe in science and rely on a layman’s gut instinct instead will leave us to suffer at the mercy of a global pandemic.

It’s your choice.

Moe Davis is the Democratic candidate in the race for the 11th District seat in the U.S. House of Representative.

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