Clinicians depart a patient room after re-positioning a COVID-19 patient into the supine position in the Intensive Care Unit at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital on Aug. 10, 2021. in Lake Charles, Louisiana. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
We were willing to debate the efficacy of masks.
We agreed there should be balance between lockdown measures and economic interests.
We patiently accumulated evidence that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.
We kept our cool through every quack remedy and grifter treatment.
We offered guidance to the confused and correctives to the misinformed.
We forbore ignorant assertions that the coronavirus was a hoax, bratty defiance of public health orders, puerile abuse of “freedom,” looney vaccine conspiracies.
We did this all with fear, as we watched wave after wave of infections disrupt our lives and kill members of our families.
But now, as we suffer through a second summer of illness and death, we find ourselves confronted with a category of people whose behavior is despicable — the COVID obstructionists, the ones who not only refuse to protect themselves but actively prevent others from doing so.
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There’s no point trying to understand them, no reasoning with them. They deserve no patience, no forbearance. The only reasonable response to these miscreants is anger. White hot anger.
Last weekend, Jefferson County Public Health staff were forced to close a mobile vaccination clinic after medical professionals were harassed and threatened. At one clinic someone threw some kind of liquid at a nurse. Passengers in cars threw garbage at the staff.
“It’s the epitome of selfishness and I am angry today,” Dawn Comstock, the agency’s executive director told The Denver Post.
Comstock speaks for all of us who have tried to do our part for the wellbeing of the community. We trusted the science. We recognized the obligation we have to our friends and neighbors. We accepted the inconvenience of mask-wearing and the negligible risks of vaccinations. We did this in service to the greater good. And in return, COVID deniers, pandemic conspiracists and vaccine obstructionists are literally killing us with their stupidity and selfishness. They are inflicting illness on our loved ones, and now we are angry.
What Comstock’s medical staff experienced is only one instance of a vile pattern of behavior in America. Blame starts with certain leaders.
From the very beginning of the pandemic some elected officials downplayed the danger. Former President Donald Trump assured Americans that the virus would magically disappear. He also promoted pea-brained treatments and made a show of not wearing a mask.
Colorado has long had its own COVID deniers, like Republican state Rep. Patrick Neville, who sued the governor over mask mandates, and various sheriffs who refused to enforce mask rules, and Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, who defied a public health order when she kept her Rifle restaurant open for sit-down service in May 2020.
Such tantrums set the tone for what was to come.
The emergence of vaccines held the promise of a return to normal life. But protection depended on community-wide participation, and too many Americans by the time the first vaccines were administered in December had been persuaded that the vaccines were unsafe or some nefarious form of government control. That meant that even with this pandemic-ending miracle of medical science at hand, some of our leaders and neighbors decided they would rather show off their imbecility than help eradicate the virus. Anti-vaccine parents were so threatening toward members of a school board in Grand Junction that board members had to have police escorts to their cars after a recent meeting. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis moved to block Florida schools from issuing mask mandates. Fox News host Tucker Carlson encouraged viewers to harass people wearing masks and call police on parents of mask-wearing kids. Eleven states have prohibited mask mandates. And there are innumerable individual acts of obstruction of the sort witnessed in Jefferson County last weekend.
To what end? The country is gripped by a fourth wave of infections, and hospitals in many parts of the country, including Colorado, are approaching or exceeding capacity as unvaccinated patients pour in.
In the beginning of the pandemic, it was easier to tolerate ignorance and stubbornness. Not anymore, not with nearly 700,000 or more dead and the highly-contagious delta variant tearing through the population. Now we want severity. We want mask requirements. We want vaccine mandates. We want crisis standards of care that prioritize vaccinated patients.
We will grieve for the unvaccinated who don’t make it, but there’s only so much room in our hearts, because we’re grieving the loss of our own loved ones who did not have to die. They could still be with us, and we are angry that they’re not.
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