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When I hear people grumbling about medical experts telling people to wear masks again, even protesting mask wearing, I want to ask them a few questions.
When you look outside and it’s pouring buckets, would you leave your umbrella and raincoat home because it was sunny yesterday? After a snowstorm, do you have your child put on sandals and a bathing suit to go sledding?
We all change what we do depending on circumstances. What makes sense one day doesn’t make sense another time. That’s true for weather and for COVID.
Right now the pandemic is in a new stage. What’s sensible is to act accordingly.
The initial COVID variant has been displaced. The delta variant arose as the virus evolved, becoming more transmissible and dangerous to a wider variety of people.
COVID has always been a disease of the unvaccinated, and we can see that constant fact in divergent rates of illness and death in different places. As Kathy Katella, a senior clinical writer for Yale Medicine explained, “The highest spread of cases and severe outcomes is happening in places with low vaccination rates.”
Right now the number of people hospitalized with COVID is especially surging in the deep south, which has some of the lowest rates of vaccinations.
In this wave of the pandemic, children — who are vaccinated less than adults — are suffering more than before. Many are not old enough for vaccination yet so the CDC recommends that “children between the ages of 2 and 12 should wear a mask in public spaces and around people they don’t live with.”
Long COVID can harm the heart, lung, kidney, skin, brain and more. Sloan-Kettering medical center reports that “approximately 10 percent of people who contract COVID-19 will develop lingering symptoms — fever, fatigue, blood clots, or brain fog — that can last for months.”
In these circumstances, it’s terribly troubling that responses to the pandemic have become politicized and linked to a long pattern of weaponized distrust in government.
Some characterize public health regulations as improper limits on freedom.
At the end of July Texas Gov. Greg Abbott mandated that school districts, cities and public officials cannot require people to wear masks or get vaccines.
Not only is restricting local control inconsistent with traditional conservatism, any constitutional claims against mandated vaccinations were dispatched over a century ago.
Now some school districts are ignoring state mandates against mask wearing and are fighting them in courts.
In 1905, the Supreme Court upheld vaccine mandates during public health threats. Jacobson v. Massachusetts involved a challenge during a smallpox epidemic. As the judicial opinion noted “defendant insist[ed] that his liberty is invaded when the State subjects him to fine or imprisonment for neglecting or refusing to submit to vaccination.” Then the court held that “the liberty secured by the Constitution of the United States to every person within its jurisdiction does not import an absolute right in each person to be, at all times and in all circumstances, wholly freed from restraint. There are manifold restraints to which every person is necessarily subject for the common good.”
Whatever one’s political views, the reality is that vaccinating makes us all safer.
According to the Texas Tribune, “Dozens of Texas hospitals have run out of intensive care unit beds as COVID-19 surges faster than any other time during the pandemic, propelled by the new delta variant. . . At least 53 Texas hospitals have no available ICU capacity.” Louisiana’s hospital system is near “major failure” as are other states with low vaccine rates.
Have you ever brought someone to a hospital who was sent to intensive care? I have, for a pulmonary embolism that came close to killing my husband. Imagine if you were in a low vaccination area where emergency and intensive care services are stressed and needed care wasn’t available for a loved one.
Just like a rainstorm doesn’t care if you have your umbrella, COVID doesn’t either. To shield ourselves and others, we all have to get vaccinated and wear a mask when and where necessary. That’s how we all get through this difficult time — together.