Let’s ‘get real’ about the COVID pandemicJan 21, 2022 08:55AM ● By Bryan Gray
With the ongoing tension between Utahns opposed and those supporting masks and vaccine requirements, I am willing to offer a truce. Let’s “get real” and stop fighting.
You might think this is not a good time to lower our guard. We are still in the thick of the virus and the policy debate can still be vicious. We have four-hour waits for rapid tests, schools are returning to periods of on-line learning due to lack of staff, some 40% of our ICU beds are still filled with COVID cases, deaths are spiraling and a wave of the virus is barreling into the student population. We still have angry protestors spouting about their “personal choice” to infect others along with a Republican county commissioner being threatened by a fellow GOP legislator for her temporary support of mask wearing.
But on the positive side, the omicron variant has been so wildly contagious that it might be running out of people to infect. A University of Washington model predicts the virus will crest about the same time you read this column with the wide-running variant almost totally disarmed by Easter. Also, omicron is generally causing only moderate illness for the 59% of Utahns who are fully vaccinated and boosted.
So here is my idea.
Let’s accept the fact that COVID will never vanish and may indeed evolve into future variants. In other words, it will be the same as our annual flu in which people getting the flu vaccine suffer less illness than those who don’t. We must decide to live with COVID in some shape or form; we must get on with daily living, keep businesses open, and allow firms to work out employment policies (including mask wearing and vaccination requirements) with their employees and customers.
There will be no shutdown of the economy. If Delta Airlines or a restaurant wishes to require proof of vaccine to board or plane or eat a burrito, so be it. Those opposed can choose another carrier or eatery. Likewise, government employees or those visiting government buildings will have to abide by the dictates of the individual departments. If the Air Force mandates vaccination, a servicemember can decide to stay in the military or leave.
As for hospitals, my truce is very simple. If you are fully vaccinated (or have a valid medical reason not to be) and become ill, the hospital will treat you, putting you first in line for an ICU bed if necessary. If, however, you become severely ill and have not been vaccinated, the hospital will place you on a “next-in-line” list. Yes, you may get treated, but not before the cancer patient or the person suffering a stroke or heart attack receives attention. This isn’t being cruel; it’s about accountability for those refusing to take proper precautions.
Oh, and one other thing…If you are hospitalized and didn’t get vaccinated, don’t expect taxpayers to fork over money for your hospital bill.
At this point in the pandemic, we should transition from a catastrophic global threat to seeing COVID as a manageable disease.
We shouldn’t live in fear. Let’s get on with life, preserve choice, and continue to encourage responsible behaviors.