by Joe Fitzgerald
Virginia’s governor ran on a platform to protect children from critical race theory and expose them to COVID. The first goal was moot, since CRT wasn’t often mentioned in public schools to begin with. How well the second succeeds should be apparent by the Ides of March.
It’s been known from the outset of the pandemic that masking, social distancing, and vaccines were the primary defenses against COVID. A year after vaccines became widely available the pandemic could have been effectively over, had rightist demagogues not discovered something new to rail against. If the 1950s were like this, iron lungs would dot America’s red counties like coal-rolling pickups.
And it is in the coal-rolling counties that the Republican freedom-to-infect mandate will be tested beginning Tuesday. Statewide, red counties are less vaccinated. The nearest example is comparing the age 5-17 populations in blue Harrisonburg and red Rockingham, 60% and 34% vaccinated, respectively. Let’s be judgmental, and assume that there is some overlap between the intentionally unvaxed and those who think spewing COVID aerosols is enshrined in some amendment they haven’t read.
Recalling that the main purpose of masking is to slow the COVID virus being spread from infected carriers, it is not themselves the anti-maskers are exposing. They may think they’re demanding the right to take their chances, but in reality they are shrieking for and voting for the right to let the rest of us take their chances.
Statistically, COVID will be less severe for those of us smart enough to come in out of the rain, wear our seatbelts, and get the vaccine. The unvaxed will be spreading severe cases primarily among themselves. And if they swap it around the playgrounds, classrooms, and gyms like mono or crabs, the difference from those more traditional ailments will be that they can more easily take it home to their parents and grandparents.
And, again statistically, it’s among those grandparents, if unvaxed as well, that most of the hospitalizations and deaths will occur. The parents exercising their so-called right to send their children to school unmasked will be putting primarily their own parents at risk. Weird ironies abound.
For the rest of us, the unhealthy decisions of the COVID-rollers will serve to keep the virus propagating until the next variant arrives. Maybe it will be less severe than Omicron, and maybe it will be more severe and vaccine-resistant. The governor’s followers are rolling our dice for us.
Whether we will be able to look for a rise in cases the second week of March is uncertain. The VDH has said it’s “streamlining” its data pages in March. That could mean putting the data on a faster server so data promised by 10 a.m. won’t arrive at 11. Or it could mean changing the way the information is reported in order to increase the level of ignorance the current administration encourages and exploits.
The numbers on Friday, March 11, if they’re available, should show us the results of the anti-mask policies of the Republican Party, aided by the Gutless Dem Caucus in the state Senate. Cases have been dropping for six weeks, and we may be far enough out of the woods and into spring that vigorously rejecting public health precautions has a relatively small effect. Or the anti-science policies may mean a Governor’s Surge in cases by the spring equinox, followed by a surge of deaths by Easter.
This column has been republished from Still Not Sleeping.