It wasn’t so long ago – nine interminable months – that we learned a new concept called “social distancing” and that if we stayed at home, we could save the lives of family, friends, and neighbors with preexisting health conditions and others vulnerable to a new disease called coronavirus or COVID-19.

Now it’s the end of a year defined by a pandemic none of us could have ever imagined. And it has gotten worse. Much, much worse. And while the risk has never been greater, our brave essential workers kiss their families and head out the door every day.

They go to work so we can stay home. Our community’s frontline workers pick up our trash, repair water pipes, groom our beaches, sanitize public restrooms, and check businesses for COVID-19 compliance. They answer 9-1-1 calls, transfer patients to area hospitals, and patrol our neighborhoods. They transport essential workers on the Big Blue Bus, design safe bike lanes, and keep our beloved farmers markets open.

Now our hospitals are in a life-threatening state with most reporting NO ICU beds available. How about if we make it OUR job to stay home as a holiday gift to our healthcare heroes who are battling a deadly war that grows grimmer by the day. Every decision to have a holiday gathering with people outside our household – no matter how safe we think it may be – is making everyone’s situation more dire. People are dying and more will die. So remember, it is in OUR hands. This is a people-driven problem and we, the people, can end it if we follow the advice of scientists and doctors.

I hope you’ll join me in closing out 2020 with overflowing gratitude for everyone risking their lives in an essential role. I also am asking for a redoubled effort to do the right thing and stay home for healthcare workers and a healthcare system now stretched far beyond its capacity.

We can never overestimate what the people who are on the frontlines are doing for us. Let’s stay home for them, continue to share our gratitude for their heroic work, and hope each of us can continue to kiss those in our household goodnight.