Folks, we should be celebrating now. We have a new Pfizer vaccine that is 95 percent effective! Just behind it in the approval process is a vaccine from Moderna! By next summer, we should be able to emerge from our caves and hug each other again.

Except that by then hundreds of thousands of us will no longer be around.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects that more than 500,000 Americans will have died of the coronavirus by the end of March. It expects that vaccines will have saved 25,000 lives by then — but that broader mask usage in this period could save even more lives, 56,000.

“Vaccines are amazingly promising — much more so than I thought possible,” Dr. Frieden told me. “But they won’t be here for a while, so we need to double down on protection protocols.”

Refusing to wear a mask is today’s equivalent of drunken driving. The odds of killing someone are low, but collectively this year the refusal to wear masks will kill far more Americans than driving under the influence.

This is the test of our lifetimes. Let’s stop failing it.