Terry McAuliffe is the Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee. He was governor of Virginia from 2014 to 2018.

The coronavirus pandemic has presented Virginia with unprecedented challenges for the past year and a half. But there is a bright light at the end of this tunnel: lifesaving vaccines against the coronavirus that we know work. As the delta variant surges, we must continue to follow the science. Only by getting vaccinated and standing strong together will we defeat this virus once and for all, and keep our commonwealth and our economy on track.

I will always lead by example, which is why I announced this month that I am requiring all of my campaign staff to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. Much like Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) smart requirement that all state employees be vaccinated, this is a simple but important step for my campaign to keep our staff and community safe.

I quickly followed that announcement by visiting Inova Health System in Fairfax, which decided in June it would require all staff to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Health-care workers have been on the front lines of this pandemic since day one, seeing the worst of what the virus can do. It is only right that we protect these vital workers, their families and their patients from the coronavirus by making sure they are vaccinated against this deadly virus. All health-care systems and providers in Virginia should follow Inova’s lead and require coronavirus vaccinations for all of their employees.

A fully vaccinated school workforce is imperative to our next generation’s success. With in-person learning beginning in school districts across the commonwealth, it is critical to the health, well-being and future of the more than 1 million Virginia K-12 school students — including hundreds of thousands who are not yet eligible for the vaccine — that our educators and school staff be fully vaccinated against the virus. That is why this month I called on school divisions to mandate the vaccine to educators and staff, and it’s why I have urged all colleges and universities across Virginia to require students and employees to be vaccinated as well. We simply cannot take any chances when it comes to keeping our schools open and our students safe.

The Food and Drug Administration has granted full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, putting us another step closer to getting every eligible Virginian vaccinated as quickly as possible. In light of this important milestone, I urge every Virginia employer to require all eligible employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Together, we can beat this virus once and for all, keep our fellow Virginians safe and keep our commonwealth’s economy running strong.

In states that are not taking this pandemic as seriously as ours, we are seeing dire consequences play out in real time. In Florida, Georgia and Mississippi, governors are preventing schools from following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to stop the spread of the coronavirus, many schools and school districts have already been forced to close, and thousands of children are being quarantined. In one Florida school district, for example, more than 8,000 schoolchildren were forced to quarantine already this school year. This is not a model for keeping our schools open, our children safe and our economy strong.

To be clear, taking this virus seriously is not a partisan issue; it’s a leadership test — and one that my Republican opponent, Glenn Youngkin, has failed repeatedly. Youngkin called the American Rescue Plan, which has provided $77 million for vaccination efforts here in Virginia, “unnecessary.” He has repeatedly praised Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) handling of the pandemic as a model for the type of leadership he would emulate as governor, even as Florida sees record cases, overflowing hospitals and schools shutting down. Youngkin has also encouraged Virginians to take nonmedical, nonreligious exceptions to get out of taking the vaccine, a dangerous message to send at this critical moment. Virginians deserve leadership with a much stronger backbone and more direct moral compass than this.

The longer Virginians remain unvaccinated, the longer this virus has to spread and potentially evolve, leaving our families, our schools and our economy in jeopardy. The coronavirus vaccines are safe and effective, and they are the only way we will beat this virus and end this pandemic once and for all. In the strongest possible terms, I urge all Virginians who are eligible to get vaccinated as quickly as you can. We must all do our part to keep our schools open, our economy running strong and our commonwealth moving forward together.