by Deborah DeYoung
Just returned from a road trip most memorable for its timing – during the weeks the Delta variant now sweeping the country started stomping through our lives here.
Reading about Mercy Hospital being overwhelmed, and then the firsthand posts here, made me listen more closely to a former neighbor. She is working as a Nurse-Type (in Jackie Deal’s apt phrase) while studying to be an RN. The Delta variant has astonished her colleagues: 15 cases the night before! she marveled after one double shift, every one of them unvaccinated.
Only the doctors can sass the patients – “Well, there’s your trouble!” one says, as if he had solved some great medical mystery – but here’s what the Nurse-types would say if they could: “What are you doing here at the hospital? You wouldn’t trust us enough to get the stinkin’ shot – but now you trust us to save you?”
And – “By the way, what do you think we’ll use to treat you? The vaccines are proven, but the treatments are mostly experimental. Don’t worry – we’re getting better at this, though we’ve had to learn the hard way. You will too – except you’ll do it alone, because we will protect the people you say you love. Even if it means just a Zoom goodbye.”
And – “We are so tired of so much about this pandemic. Watching people die this mostly preventable death isn’t why we trained so long and work so hard. This is not what anyone signed up for. Also, did we mention we are so very tired?”
So what could convince unvaccinated people to protect themselves and the rest of us? Maybe this week’s FDA approval – like every other shot gets that kids and adults take without all the fuss? It’s hard to think of some new fact or scary scenario that might persuade anyone: the risks, the costs, the grim prospect of dying alone: hasn’t it all been said? And seen?
Everyone seems resigned to falling short of herd immunity, meaning we’ll have to live with Covid-19 forevermore? It’s not just unvaccinated Americans – the virus will continue to mutate as it circulates through the wide world of unvaccinated people, and then boomerang back. We Americans have access that many people would kill for. And many will die because they lack that access.
I thought about all this because I left to visit a relative who is immune-compromised. I didn’t start driving until I got a fresh Covid-19 test – and then learned she had just been exposed and needed a test ASAP. So instead of a long-awaited hug, I masked up to take her for that drive-through test. She passed – the test, that is. (Not much of a joke given that two in every five people now hospitalized with breakthrough infections are in that immune-compromised group).
Next up was getting her third shot as soon as the FDA approved it. Ten million Americans are sitting ducks – and Delta is locked and loaded. Sure hope it works.
Like the rest of us, this relative is eager to get her life back and see her friends. Even one who refuses to get vaccinated because she thinks the pandemic is a sign of End Times, that the Rapture is nigh. Not sure why that makes refusing the shots logical, but whatever.
Except: this “friend” continues to mix up my phone number and my relative’s. I am tired of reminding her – wrong number. Maybe it’s a sign? It certainly is an opportunity! I could give her what-for and she’d think it was my relative who sent that message. It would be direct, just gently explaining that she’s just not worth the risk. That she’s not sponge-worthy, for you Seinfeld fans. It could be funny – recycling the joke that Covid-19 was a virus that mutated. . . and it’s now an IQ test! It wouldn’t have to spell out that she flunked – she’d figure that out.
It’s mighty tempting. Suppose it would be wrong to send that text?