By Gene Thompson
COVID19 did not kill my brother. Selfishness, lies and ignorance killed him. When he was prematurely removed from his ICU bed in a hospital just outside Baton Rouge, a week after his devastating stroke, barely conscious, in pain, unable to breathe adequately, and sent home to his wife, Lori, who had not yet been trained to care for him, he was sentenced to death. His bed was needed by one of the COVID patients flooding hospitals throughout Louisiana, a state with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the US.
Similar tragedies are occurring in under-vaccinated communities in many regions of the US, though the south is particularly vulnerable. Doctor Jeanne Marrazzo, infectious disease specialist at the University of Alabama, described to the Index-Journal the situation in her state, where the vaccination rate is even lower than in Louisiana, as “potentially apocalyptic.”
In February of 2020, then-President Trump revealed beyond any reasonable doubt in his taped interview with Robert Woodward that he knew the virus was far more dangerous than was revealed to the public. Again and again, he lied about the threat at a time when it might still have been possible, with honest acknowledgement of the danger, to motivate the public to take effective action.
But he took a more selfish course. Because it was clear that his re-election would be threatened by an economic slowdown, he and the politicians who supported him demanded that shuttered businesses be reopened, flaunting medical evidence that doing so would encourage the virus to proliferate. Declaring the pandemic a myth, he refused to accept expert advice that, until a vaccine was available, masks were the best way of saving lives. With Trump’s encouragement, “No masks!” became a rallying cry throughout the Republican party. Cooperation was equated to socialism, and socialism to an attack on Rugged American Individualism. By the time vaccines arrived, the table was set for Trump supporters and the entire Republican party to brand unselfish cooperation as treason.
So here we are with a population whose selfishness has been stoked to the point of no return — a population that, although a minority, is sufficient in number according to epidemiologists to deny us herd immunity. This guarantees years of hospitals so crowded with unvaccinated COVID patients that services must be denied to those suffering from other ailments. These vaccine decliners have been manipulated politically by the lies of selfish politicians, but that does not relieve them of their individual responsibility.
It’s time to play hardball. In Mobile, Alabama, Jason Valentine, a physician at Diagnostic and Medical Clinic Infirmary Health posted a sign on his door, as reported by the Washington Post: “Dr. Valentine will no longer see patients that are not vaccinated against Covid-19.” It is time to make vaccine resisters understand that their disregard for others’ welfare is not political righteousness, but human selfishness. Their selfishness causes suffering to other people and their families. If Dr. Valentine’s policies were mandated, my brother, Dana, might still be alive.