Nobody, save those whose livelihoods require it, would choose to spend their morning in a hospital waiting room.
Procedures—surgeries, tests, etc.—take longer than anticipated. Test results, despite computerization and advances in medicine, still take days.
People, both the patients and the families waiting for them, are anxious. Waiting room TVs seem to wind up on “The Price Is Right,” and let’s face it, Drew Carey is no Bob Barker.
And on a stifling morning in mid-July, breathing (again) through a mask, be it paper or heavy cotton, in the former Wesley Long Hospital, was downright uncomfortable.
COVID-19—the Delta variant for now, Gamma or perhaps Lambda in the near future—has roared back and is once again filling the nation’s ICU beds.
Recently lifted restrictions—mask requirements/recommendations for now, perhaps renewed shutdowns or closures in the future—are back on the table.
Thanks, anti-vaxxers, shot slackers and people who take science advice from Facebook. This is on you.
Basic math and science
The relevant news Wednesday—aside from hearing the surgeon say that Mom was fine, in recovery and nearly ready to go home—came in Gov. Roy Cooper’s afternoon news conference.
The state, Cooper said, would be re-instituting mask recommendations for students (and staff) in kindergarten through 8th grade once the new school year cranks up.
Key COVID metrics in North Carolina support the decision. A three-month high in the statewide positive rate reached 7.9%, and a six-week high in COVID-19 hospitalizations reached 694.
Friday, the number of new cases reached 1,434—the highest in two months.
That’s on top of the 13,550 COVID-related deaths in North Carolina out of more than 600,000 (and counting) in the nation as a whole.
And the hell of it is, recent spikes in suffering and death didn’t need to happen.
“COVID is now a preventable disease with the vaccines we have,” said Dr. David Priest, the chief quality, safety and epidemiology officer at Novant Health Tuesday in a conference call.
Novant, Priest reported, has four facilities statewide that are admitting increasing numbers of COVID patients.
Not that it should come as a shock to anyone who passed high-school biology, but those patients are “almost universally unvaccinated,” Priest said.
Drilling farther down in the numbers—for those who trust “math,” that is—there is a mixed bag of news.
The mortality rate from COVID for those admitted to hospitals, Priest said, is 4 to 5%. At the height of the pandemic, that rate ran to 15%.
Part of the reason for the decrease is that physicians have learned better how to treat the disease.
And part of it has to be that the average age of patients being admitted to hospitals is now 47. During the darkest days of the pandemic, it was 61.
Younger patients are better able to fight infection.
Darwin—another scientist—nailed that one.
The good news, such that it is, is that some 60% of North Carolinians over 18 have had at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccination.
That’s far short of, say the 84% reported in Vermont and less than the 70% actual scientists and qualified experts say is needed for herd immunity.
But it’s something.
Shots on every corner
The question for the skeptics, the stubborn and the plain stupid has now become this: What’s it going to take?
If Priest said it once, he said it four times in as many different ways over the course of 30 minutes.
COVID, by whatever Greek letter or new variant, is easily avoided.
“The point is, (COVID) is now a disease of the unvaccinated,” Priest said. “That’s who is in the hospital. It really is preventable if people get vaccinated.”
Chalk it up to a good nature, taking his Hippocratic Oath seriously or having firsthand information, but Priest chalks up vaccine hesitancy—and its negative consequences—more to apathy, particularly by the young (and the strong) who may not have had COVID or known someone who did.
“Millennials … aren’t typically anti-vaxx,” he said. “It’s more ‘Eh, I don’t really get what the big deal is. I don’t need to do it.’”
Me? With plenty of time to think in a waiting room sweating through a mask, sitting 20 feet away from the next guy and unable to even take a drink from a water fountain (they’re shut off due to COVID concerns), I came to a different conclusion.
Vaccinations are available for free at nearly every pharmacy in America, local health departments and clinics set up by big providers such as Novant. Much of the rest of the world is begging for vaccine and Americans are awash in it.
Patience has worn thin and sympathy for the sick—those who deliberately and willfully declined vaccines, not those at risk with underlying health conditions—nearly exhausted.
They have no one to blame but themselves.