Updated: December 7, 2020 4:37 PM EST | Originally published: December 7, 2020 10:47 AM EST

Before TIME reveals the 2020 Person of the Year, we hosted a discussion with leading newsmakers about the people and events that defined a year like no other.

On Monday, TIME facilitated a live debate powered by Zoom on who should be TIME’s Person of the Year.

TIME’s Executive Editor and Editorial Director of Person of the Year, Ben Goldberger, moderated engaging conversations with Emmanuel Acho, former NFL Player and creator of Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man; Jessica Byrd, the founding partner of Three Point Strategies; Dr. Céline Gounder, infectious disease expert and member of President-elect Biden’s COVID-19 Advisory Council; and Dr. Leana Wen, a physician and professor of public health; and chef José Andrés, founder of World Central Kitchen and owner of ThinkFoodGroup.

At the U.S. faces yet another brutal wave of COVID-19, Dr. Wen and Dr. Gounder called on all Americans to stand in solidarity with the healthcare workers across the country by following public health guidelines to get coronavirus infections under control.

“Our hospitals are at the brink,” Dr. Wen said during the debate. “But we are not the first line of defense. The first line of defense is the community — it’s each person doing their part and understanding that, for some people, social distancing is a privilege that not everyone has.”

The public health experts both agreed that Dr. Anthony Fauci deserved recognition as one of the most influential people of the year for his vigilance in advocating for a science-based approach to the country’s COVID-19 response. They both also acknowledged the heroic work of millions of essential workers who put their lives on the line every day to serve their communities throughout the pandemic.

Later on in the event, Acho joined Byrd to discuss the national and global reckoning on race sparked by the police killing of George Floyd, what impact it had on the 2020 U.S. elections and where the country must go from here.

“It’s not that this year didn’t bring trials like any other year, but it’s brought trial after trial, compounding each other,” Acho said. “We were battling COVID. But on top of that virus of the body, we were also battling the virus of the mind: racism and systemic injustice, oppression and hate.”

While Acho believed that NBA star Lebron James should be recognized for his “More Than A Vote” campaign, Byrd argued that the coalition of every day Black Americans that stood up to injustice on the streets —and at the ballot box—deserved the honor of TIME’s Person of the Year.

“This is the year of the Black protester. The year of the Black voter. The year of the Black activist,” Byrd told TIME. “This year, Black people courageously showed us what is possible in this country when we tell the truth about our lives.”

TIME editors ultimately decide who is selected as the Person of the Year. TIME will reveal this year’s pick on time.com and in the first-ever “TIME Person of the Year” television special on NBC, on Dec. 10 at 10 p.m. ET.

Contact us at letters@time.com.

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