by Steve Haner
Call out the militia! Roving bands of white people are rushing to Danville to steal COVID vaccines from more deserving blacks and Latinos! That’s the big news according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, although it lacks the courage to write that headline directly.
The story dominates the print front page and the on-line paper, complete with a map (above) showing the distances these despicable Privilege Recipients are willing to drive to avoid hospitalization or death from a disease which everybody who reads the paper knows is only truly dangerous for People of Color.
The health agency tried to control the chaos, prompted by posts that indicated on-site workers were encouraging people in line to invite friends and family who were above the age of 18. On Wednesday night, the state asked people to stop driving to these clinics without an appointment or invitation.
Before the announcement, information had spread by word of mouth and across the internet, contributing to the confusion and ambiguity among people clamoring for a shot….
But successfully baking equitable distribution into vaccination policies has loomed over Virginia’s rollout as the state scrambles to disrupt a system that has historically left out communities in low-income and rural areas.
Do we know the ages, race or ethnicity of those who drove down? No. We might be surprised. Do we know whether any had dangerous medical risks? No. There is no story here and the implied outrage is just silly. Shots in arms equals success. Period.
I got my first shot four weeks ago today because an on-site volunteer at the Arthur Ashe Center (a known liberal Democrat) called me as a friend and said they would have excess, and if I got in before 4 p.m. I could get my first shot. Many of us coming in that final half-hour were notified by friends in the room. All appeared to be 65 or older.
While speaking to others outside, it became clear some were there just on the off-chance and had tried before. It was also clear that all the staff of the Richmond SPCA had been invited for vaccines, including the 20-something in line ahead of me. (He also showed up the same day as me for shot number two last week and we chatted again.)
Was I offended by his getting a shot? No. The idea is to vaccinate as many people as possible in the shortest possible time. We are now in month four of the vaccine effort. We’ve moved on from the aged, incarcerated and nursing home residents who clearly belonged as highest priority along with medical staff.
I am sick of the racial messaging that has overwhelmed my hometown newspaper, with one reporter in particular nothing short of obsessed by the topic. I dismissed her as a serious source on any of this long ago, when I spotted a shameless bit of data bait and switch she used to maintain her preferred narrative in contradiction of actual facts.
That story had appeared a week before I got the phoned invitation to come get a shot:
“While the virus’s death toll has begun to trend downward, Black Virginians are dying from COVID-19 at 1.2 times the rate of white residents when adjusted for population, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Latinos are being infected at more than double the rate of whites. In October, the rate was five times higher than whites.”
Notice she compares death rates black versus white and then compares infection rates Latino versus white. An honest report would have mentioned that the Latino population seems to be having the lowest case fatality rate of the three, by a huge margin. That would not have supported the pointed narrative of the story and headline, however, so must be ignored.
As of today, go to the state data and divide the number of cases (by race) by the number of deaths (by race) and the highest case fatality rate is among white Virginians, 26 deaths per 1,000 recorded cases as opposed to 23 among blacks and 8 among Latinos. I bet you had no idea.
All of the numbers are largely bogus, of course, because there are wide gaps in racial reporting, which is of any value only if one accepts there is any biological reality to race, beyond culture. There is not. What determines COVID fatality most often is age and pre-existing vulnerabilities, not skin color or national origin.
The numbers are also bogus because the recorded cases are only a fraction of all the people who have been infected sufficient to trigger immune responses. The most common estimate now is only one in four infections are reported, which would indicate Virginia has had about 2.5 million people infected to the point they triggered an immune response. Racial breakdowns on the unknown cases are unknowable.
But lies, media myths and political considerations are driving the state’s vaccine distribution, with reporters such as her using a cattle prod. A specific government policy to vaccinate fewer of a particular group, or to restrict access to eager recipients, means some people will wait longer unnecessarily, including some who may still have advanced age or pre-existing vulnerability.
But there are no signs anybody is being excluded, and great efforts are being made to make this convenient. What I don’t see that would make sense is off-hours events to get second or third shift workers. I still think the commercial pharmacies, stand alone and in retailers, are being under-used, and maybe they give shots at 2 a.m. Somebody needs to.
The crowds at Arthur Ashe on both days I was there wouldn’t meet the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s desired demographic criteria, and my daughter saw the same as a vaccinator at the raceway one day. They reflected what the state statistics show. Both locations are close to lower income housing areas and served by public transit, so who got there reflects who wanted to get there. As did the clinic in Danville.