With over 300,000 Americans lost to COVID-19, lack of leadership by some can lead to deaths of many

Americans have a long and proud history of pulling together in times of crisis, making sacrifices to make sure we all benefit. Whether it was first responders across the country rushing to help on 9/11; or brave men and women signing up to defend our nation following an attack; or communities sending relief in the form of aid, supplies and manpower after a terrible natural disaster – Americans aren’t afraid to sacrifice to help their fellow human beings. Historically, our leaders have also done the same, putting aside partisan politics to focus on protecting and saving lives, especially American lives. They recognized that we all have a responsibility during an emergency to protect one another and that politics should not prevent us from helping one another in a time of tragedy.

American leaders, whether they’re elected or not, have an obligation to protect the lives of those they have a responsibility to serve and lead – especially in matters of life and death. For elected officials like myself, that obligation is not just an unwritten responsibility but also a sworn oath. What’s most disappointing and extremely alarming these past several months is that so many have failed to live up to that oath when it comes to COVID-19, the deadly pandemic that is now taking the lives of over 2,000-3,000 Americans per day.

As we’ve seen at the state and national levels, some people in positions of authority have chosen to promote misleading and false information and sometimes tell outright lies, undermining efforts to control COVID-19. This is a reckless and inhumane act. We have people in positions of power undercutting the four proven lifesaving actions we know can slow down and stop the spread: wearing a mask, social distancing, washing our hands and sanitizing surfaces regularly. Others are trying to downplay the virus’ severity, saying the crisis is either over, overblown, or just “the flu.” But that’s simply not true. In just 10 months, we have exceeded 300,000 American lives lost, more than were lost in combat in all of World War II.

Frankly, the people in authority who are now disseminating lies, mistruths and disinformation to confuse the public about this virus are creating even more chaos and distrust leading to dangerous, and I fear, deadly circumstances. These irresponsible acts are putting incredible, unnecessary and dangerous pressure on our health care workers, hospitals and first responders – leading to an escalation of pain, suffering, and death. This reckless behavior is no different than yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater or yelling “Bomb!” in an airport. We have laws in place to protect all of us from irresponsible actions.

When an elected official, Democrat, Republican or other, ignores medical advice and refuses to follow their own government’s recommendations, they endanger everyone. The misinformation they spread is like a virus of ignorance, encouraging people to refuse to wear masks, defy those who are only trying to help protect others and results in more pain and further delays our economic recovery.

That’s why we must all remain vigilant about the information we are consuming and sharing. Please, verify your sources. Trust the medical experts and scientific institutions. Please, do not listen to those who are spreading lies. This holiday season give the gift of health. Give the gift of compassion. Give the gift of truth and give the gift of courage and strength to do what’s right. Wear a mask and help stop the spread by following the four proven lifesaving actions: wear a mask when you are away from home. Social distance and avoid gatherings. Wash your hands. Sanitize regularly. How many more Americans must die before some people finally wake up?

The sooner we follow the advice of our medical experts, the sooner our economy will recover: the sooner it will be safe again to show our affection for our loved ones and friends in person, and the sooner our lives will return to a more enjoyable “normal” with hope and a positive future for all. We can do it – we must!

State Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski serves the 121st Legislative District in Luzerne County.