Winter is coming and, as with many of you, I’m deeply worried about how America is going to weather these upcoming months. In fact, you could say that many are scared to death with the specter of COVID-19 continuing to loom as the U.S. and global death toll reaches a stunning 246,000 souls in America alone. What’s worse? There is no sign of COVID-19 letting up anytime and, at this point, nearly 11.2 million coronavirus cases have been reported in the United States since February.

With daily infection rates increasing, our entire citizenry must embrace common-sense truths in this overly-politicized and ever-growing pandemic: COVID-19 is not a hoax and perhaps more importantly, it’s not a partisan issue. This virus doesn’t affect liberals differently than conservatives, and so-called red and blue states are equally at risk.

COVID-19 is an equal-opportunity killer and all Americans must work together to slow its spread and protect our loved ones in order for things to return to normal and to take back control of our lives. We need to set aside the blinders of partisanship and accept this reality together so that we can do everything possible to save lives.

While we may not all agree on the best way to accomplish a return to normalcy, if we work together for the common good, we can beat this virus into submission and move on. Every American should practice social distancing, mask-wearing and handwashing, simple science-based measures proven to slow the spread of this highly contagious virus.

I urge everyone reading this to act before it’s too late. You are not immune to COVID-19; none of us are. Don’t wait until you lose someone you love to this virus by not accepting the reality of the pandemic and the possible life-threatening effects it can cause.

My close friend of decades, Dr. Ben Carson, and his wife Candy tested positive for COVID-19 in the middle of November. A world-renowned brain surgeon, he is presently serving as secretary of Housing and Urban Development for the Trump administration. His family, friends and I have been praying for the Carsons and fortunately they have received excellent medical care and are near recovery. However, not everyone has been so fortunate to overcome COVID-19. This is precisely why we must take the coronavirus threat seriously and acknowledge the fact that we are all at risk.

Recently, I was deeply disturbed to observe an interview with a South Dakota emergency room nurse. She spoke passionately about how many of her dying patients, even as they struggled to take their final breaths, simply refused to acknowledge the existence of COVID-19 or that COVID-19 was the cause of their demise. The nurse, who is working in a state with the highest infection rate in the country, told a reporter that she has had patients who are oxygen dependent and yet continued to deny that they were infected with COVID-19.

“I think the hardest thing to watch is that people are still looking for something else and a magic answer and they do not want to believe COVID is real,” Jodi Doering said in the interview.

“Their last dying words are, ‘This can’t be happening. It’s not real.’” Unfortunately after CNN broke this story without any deeper investigations it was proven that these stories were overly exaggerated, which the nurse later admitted. These headlines whip citizens into a fear zone and it’s unfortunate how the media and frontline workers with agendas further exploit the pain and suffering of Americans.

As citizens of the U.S., we must pay attention and do the right thing. For ourselves and for others, political affiliation aside. We are talking about public health—the health of not only ourselves but our neighbors, parents, children and friends. Iowa’s Republican Governor Kim Reynolds, who once called mask-wearing a “feel-good” measure, reversed her stance this week in the wake of rising infections in the state. She signed a proclamation requiring Iowans over the age of two to wear masks in indoor public spaces starting Nov. 17. “If Iowans don’t buy into this, we’ll lose,” Gov. Reynolds said at a news conference. “Businesses will close once again, more schools will be forced to go online, and our health care system will fail.” The facts are daunting and hospitals across the nation are frantically searching for nurses because their staff are stretched so thin.

At least 246,000 fatalities have been reported in the United States since February. More than 153,000 new infections were added to the tally this Monday and the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has now topped 73,000 for the first time since the pandemic began. With the numbers steadily increasing, we must not deny reality or science when so much is riding on our actions. In an age of poisoned partisan discourse, we must come together as a nation to fight this terrible modern-day plague. It’s time for our actions to reflect the words of Jesus. By accepting personal responsibility and taking steps to combat COVID-19, we can fulfill his teaching to love thy neighbor as thyself.

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