We understand that top state leaders often disagree.

What we don’t get is why they hadn’t met for six months—not even by video conference—to discuss the pandemic.

That’s no way to run our state government, especially when COVID-19 has killed more than 3,000, hospitalized 15,000 and infected 350,000 across Wisconsin. No wonder the disease is running rampant, and public guidance is so conflicted.

Some hope came last week when Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and top Republican lawmakers emerged from their first meeting since May. Both sides suggested their discussion was productive and that they would try to work together.

They absolutely should continue the governor’s public mask mandate. It’s not just key to keeping people safe from a deadly disease. It also helps keep our economy open.

If the state Supreme Court strikes down Evers’ mask order as an overreach of his powers, then Evers should quickly negotiate with the Legislature on new parameters for it to continue. If that doesn’t work, the public should continue to cover their faces on their own.

Wearing a mask is a minor inconvenience when you go inside a grocery store, gas station or some other enclosed public space. It prevents people from coughing on one another. And when you are inside a building, the virus is much easier to transmit—even among people who feel fine. Some COVID carriers exhibit no symptoms.

Wisconsin is heading in the wrong direction with one of the fastest infection rates in the country. Yet we’re getting closer each day to a vaccine. Two manufacturers reported their vaccines are more than 90% effective this month and could be distributed to 700,000 health care workers and high-risk residents in Wisconsin by the end of the year.

That’s why we all need to hang in there a little bit longer, being careful not to expose loved ones to unnecessary risk.

Wisconsin hospitals are on the brink of “catastrophe,” Eric Borgerding of the Wisconsin Hospital Association told state leaders last week. He implored “a united and substantial response” to slow demand for care.

We sure hope the governor, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, were listening. Borgerding urged leaders to continue the mask mandate, address hospital staffing shortages, expand testing and open more overflow facilities for COVID patients. All of those requests deserve broad support.

LeMahieu is new to his leadership position. But Vos has no excuse for stalling state action for months—especially when he and the governor appear to agree, for example, on investing more in testing.

Locally, Dane County issued a confusing rule last week. The purpose seemed fine: to discourage families from gathering for Thanksgiving. But facing lots of questions about their vague order, Dane County officials acknowledged it forbids anyone from entering another person’s private home to socialize. You can’t even have a cup of coffee from a distance. The problem with such strict government dictates is they antagonize people who might otherwise be more careful.

This pandemic has been hard on everyone. It has cost jobs, kept children out of school and left the elderly lonely and vulnerable.

Wisconsin needs more unity against the common enemy of COVID-19. That starts with our elected leaders. Yet in the absence of strong leadership, we the people must take precautions on our own. We’ve come so far in sacrificing for others. More caution is required before the virus is finally defeated.