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It’s not enough, when confronting a pandemic, to say “follow the science.”


That’s the catchphrase uttered by some, who seem to believe that the mere mention of science is enough to solve the complex problem. They’re wrong, but not because the science is incorrect or not to be trusted. We should follow science.


But the essential companion to science in these challenging times is leadership. On the national, state and local levels, we depend on those who are able to combine solid epidemiological understanding with a forceful public presence.


Nationally, we’ve seen it with Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and a ubiquitous face in the national news media. Fauci, who has more experience in this area than we could dream of, doesn’t come across as an academic or egghead. His words are simple, clear and occasionally challenging.


And while he might clash with President Trump from time to time, the president surely understands the importance of having Fauci at his side. No slouch as a communicator himself, the president knows what it means to reach people with striking words.


At the state level, we’ve seen it with Lee Norman, the secretary at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Some might simplify matters by saying that Norman is Kansas’ Facui, but we’d give him higher marks than even that. Norman has an avuncular presence and tempers even his most dire warnings with a particular warmth and humor all his own.


Norman faces the additional challenge of responding to the epidemic in a relatively small state, without the full resources of the federal government, and having to marshal limited testing and resources to benefit the biggest number of people.


Locally, Gianfranco Pezzino serves as the Shawnee County health officer. Like Fauci and Norman, he has become a common face in the news media. Like them, he’s required to communicate about an evolving threat in the clearest way possible. But he has to do it at a nearly granular level, interacting with local leaders and businesses.


Pezzino has faced difficult choices and made tough calls, and he has shown the leadership that we all need and deserve. He issued a stay-in-place order for the county before a statewide one came down, taking the responsibility of closing local businesses and exacting an economic toll for the sake of the broader public’s health.


Leadership, it is often said, is about making hard choices. But too many of us don’t recognize what truly hard choices look like. Fauci, Norman and Pezzino know. They have made the choices. They have communicated clearly and without sugarcoating.


And we are lucky to have them all.