So much has fed into our quagmire: a lack of national leadership, the perpetuation of misinformation. The nurse in Missouri told me about a man with preexisting conditions who ended up in the ICU because he believed that the virus would go away by Nov. 4 and went out to eat at restaurants. Of course, it didn’t go away that day. Instead, we hit a record high of 103,067 cases, the first time we broke six digits; 1,116 people died. It didn’t have to be this bad.

I don’t want to hear the same stories in a fourth wave, a fifth wave, to feel like we are trapped in an endless spiral, unnecessarily repeating our own mistakes. New leadership is coming to the White House; Joe Biden’s first move as president-elect was to announce a COVID-19 advisory board. I hope it will amplify the voices of our public health leaders, depoliticize the pandemic and deliver for all of the weary front-line workers.

But we don’t have to wait until then. The best way to help our medical workers isn’t to stand at our windows at 7 p.m. cheering or to give them thank-you water bottles. It’s to stay out of their ERs and ICUs by keeping ourselves and our neighbors safe.