What if a flood or forest fire killed a thousand Mainers? What if highway deaths suddenly quadrupled, or if there were 30 times as many murders in a typical 18-month period?

Would we be debating whether floods or fires were real? Would we have to hear that driving safely is a matter of personal choice? Or that murder victims older than 60 don’t count because they were not going to live long anyway?

A wedding photo of Jeromy and Nichole Lee sits next to an invitation for a celebration of his life. Jeromy Lee died of COVID-19 on Aug. 27, one of more than 1,000 Mainers claimed by the virus so far.  Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

So why, after a disease that didn’t exist two years ago has killed more than 1,000 Mainers, are we still hearing ridiculous arguments against all of the common-sense public health measures that have saved many lives?

Maine is one of the safest places in the country because we acted quickly to ban indoor gatherings and adopt mask wearing in order to slow the spread of the virus when it was starting to sweep the nation in the spring of 2020.

Since a vaccine became available, Maine has been a national leader in getting people fully vaccinated.

The impact of the novel coronavirus on Maine could be much worse, but that is no consolation to the friends and families of the 1,000 Maine people who have died of COVID, especially since political resistance has made it worse than it needed to be.

The intensive care units of our hospitals are packed with COVID cases, outbreaks are closing schools to in-person lessons and the uncertainty over safety is keeping people out of restaurants, theaters and churches.

And yet we still hear from people who refuse to be vaccinated, refuse to wear masks in public and demand the “right” to behave as if the pandemic is something that they can just wish away.

From the first days of the pandemic, naysayers have been fighting every measure designed to reduce the spread of the virus. Public health authorities may not have always been perfect, but the record shows that the naysayers have been wrong about everything to do with the virus from the beginning.

Banning indoor gatherings saved lives. Ignoring the bans has likely caused deaths.

Mandating mask wearing has saved lives. Refusing to abide by the mandates has killed people, including prominent advocates for the no-mask movement.

And refusing vaccination has created a fertile place for the virus to take hold and spread. COVID has claimed the lives of more than 675,000 Americans, but an extensive review of death certificates and autopsy and medical records has not established a causal link between a single death and the more than 300 million doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines that have been administered in this country since last December.

Even the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which has been linked to a very rare blood-clotting complication that can be associated with three deaths (out of 9 million doses administered), is thousands of times safer than the disease it protects against.

Maine has lost more than 1,000 of our relatives, friends and neighbors. We all owe it to them to do whatever we can to add as few names to that list as possible.

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