On Monday evening, elected officials at the state level and others expressed a willingness to sacrifice older Americans to the COVID-19 pandemic in order to “get back to work” and stave off an economic collapse.

These comments offer a false choice that is cruel, callow, and insinuates that anyone past age 70 is past their expiration date. We believe our nation is capable of addressing both issues simultaneously—and must do so quickly in order to save lives.

As I wrote last week, older adults, especially those with chronic health conditions, are the most vulnerable to experiencing severe complications from COVID-19. But it is everyone’s responsibility to slow the outbreak and protect ourselves and our older loved ones, neighbors, and friends.

We should not act as if the pandemic offers only “either-or” choices. We do not have to choose either to protect people’s health or to protect the economy. This kind of thinking is divisive and distracts us from taking proven actions to address the crisis.

At NCOA, we believe in our nation’s qualified public health experts, and we urge all government officials to follow their advice and counsel.