Last week, 33 legislators signed a letter written to Gov. Dan McKee essentially asking him to fold on the Oct. 1 vaccine mandate for health care workers. They suggested that none of the “heroes” who have worked the medical front lines should end up on the unemployment line because they opt not to take the shot.
Other than a weak suggestion of a return to session to address this and similar mandate matters, there was no action plan. Glaringly absent was any expressed concern for the patients.
But, there was the “gravitas.”
The ringleader, North Providence State Rep. Arthur Corvese, reminded anyone who asked that the 33 signature names alone, his on top, brought instant and advanced credibility to the weeks-old protest from the vocal minority of nurses, CNAs and others who rallied at the Statehouse and distracted the opening WaterFire, which was, ironically, themed to celebrate and honor front line health care workers. Yes, “Doc” Corvese explained that it wasn’t necessary to provide an alternative solution to the Oct. 1 deadline. It was plenty that he and his colleagues broke the sweat to write the letter and weigh in.
It’s all hit-and-run politics. Quickly harness the anger of the “heroic” employee protesters, but get in and out fast. You don’t want to stick to that group too long because the majority of working “heroes” and the general population are scratching their heads wondering how in heaven’s name some of the very people who have seen and suffered the pandemic battle up front could sing this selfish “it’s my body and I’ll die if I want to” song.
As for the “hero” label itself, you get no argument here. Whether vaccinated or not, what they’ve done since March of last year when the world caved to the present has been incredible. And should 10 percent of them call it a career over a vaccine, it doesn’t change what they’ve done to date. They will not lose our deep respect and gratitude.
In the meantime, President Joe Biden just gave the whole local controversy cover with renewed national mandate momentum for employees in health care, federal employees, and private industry companies that employ 100 or more people. And he is driving the idea of more and more public places requiring proof of vaccination for access and entry.
There is still plenty of pushback, mostly from Republican governors and congressmen who still think the anti-vax card is the ace in the hole. They are predicting, actually in reality urging, a renewed resentment against the mandates.
A weird argument keeps coming back to the following: You can still catch the Delta variant while vaccinated, with albeit likely lesser symptoms. But those with and without the shot are equal transmitters of the virus. So, the decision to protect yourself or not is a private one.
It’s a kind of a conundrum.
Until you check the hospitals, especially in the red states. The ICUs are full with the mostly unvaccinated, non-COVID care is threatened, and there is no end in sight.
At the risk of burying the lede here, have we thought of this solution? Notwithstanding the specific challenge of the health care employees, for everyone else, maybe we just forget forcing proof of vaccination to see a show, a ball game, or dine in a restaurant.
How about we just agree, until we reach herd immunity, those who choose not to vaccinate waive admittance to the hospital. It goes against our entire do-no-harm health care culture, but perhaps, as awful as it may be, we just call out the “it’s my body” crowd and ask them to roll the dice.
Dan Yorke is the PM Drive Host on 99.7/AM 630 WPRO, Dan Yorke State of Mind weekends on Fox Providence/WPRI 12 and owns communications/crisis consulting firm DYCOMM LLC.