Please allow me a moment of personal privilege, and, while you’re at it, you might want to hide the kids. Here goes: MY 6-YEAR-OLD GRANDSON HAS BLEEPING COVID!!!
And I’m spitting mad.
His symptoms have — thankfully — been relatively mild so far. And his risk, we’re told, of developing long COVID is low. But he has a 3-year-old brother who’s unvaccinated. He’s fine. So far.
Which makes me a little less worried, but no less angry. I don’t want to make too much of it, not when so many have suffered and are suffering far worse. Not when so many have died.
And yet, it’s my grandson.
And so I’m angry with the anti-vax crowd for refusing to see that their selfish refusal to get the shots has endangered my grandson, who has had his two shots, who wears a kid-sized N-95 mask to school and who cautions me to stay away from him because, even at 6, he knows that older — OK, old — people are more vulnerable.
I’m far more angry at the politicians who downplay the virus, who — in the name of, uh, freedom — issue anti-mandate mandates saying that cities and schools are not allowed to issue mask or vaccine mandates. Or governors who apparently believe that the virus is somehow mindful of county boundaries. I mean the kind of governor who applauds those counties that have mandates, but refuses to order them statewide.
It’s worse than that. I mean, the mask fights are, well, absurd, as anyone who has ever been to a recent school board meeting can attest. The vaccine-passport concept — in the few states that require proof of vaccination or a recent negative test in order to eat inside at restaurants or go to a movie or a basketball game — is being contested by those who would limit my freedom to go safely to, say, my neighborhood coffee shop. We all want COVID to be over, to move from pandemic stage to endemic, which means it would be more like the flu. But as losing football coaches like to say, we don’t seem to want it badly enough.
In France, President Emmanuel Macron says he wants to “piss off” the unvaccinated by limiting their access to restaurants and the rest. If that tells us one thing, it’s that Macron doesn’t have to run in a Republican primary.
If it’s me, I’m happy to “piss off” those who oppose COVID vaccines as a requirement for attending school. We all want to keep schools open. The best way is for kids and teachers and staff to all be vaccinated. Kids are already required to take shots for dangerously contagious childhood diseases. What’s different about the highly contagious omicron variant that is sweeping the country and sending kids — and Americans of all other ages — to hospitals at the greatest rate in COVID-pandemic history? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. We all know the answer.
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Both grandsons, whose schools do require masks, were greeted by the unsurprising news of outbreaks in their classrooms following the winter break. The 3-year-old had to be quarantined. Fun fact: 3-year-olds, like the virus, are not especially mindful of boundaries, particularly those 3-year-olds without any symptoms. The 6-year-old didn’t have to quarantine because he had his shots. And we’ve seen how that worked out.
Who knows how many kids in his first-grade class are vaccinated? According to data from the CDC, the percentage of kids aged 5 to11 who are fully vaccinated is, at last count, around 18%. If it were triple that percentage in my grandson’s class, that would still mean nearly half the kids were not fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration has failed to ensure access to at-home rapid tests. Since Joe Biden ran, in large part, as someone who would have a better handle than his opponent on controlling the pandemic — OK, a low bar — that failure is a major problem. As Biden likes to say, Folks, this is the United States of America. Well, how the hell does the United States of America not have enough at-home rapid tests?
As the Washington Post points out, when Biden came to office a year ago, he laid out a 200-page plan on how to fight COVID. On page 59, there was the promise of “predictable and robust” government purchases of COVID tests. And on page 81, he promised to “support schools in implementing COVID-19 screening testing.” Sadly, many school districts, even when they have access to the screening, don’t use it.
Meanwhile, the Trumpist Supreme Court ruled that the Biden administration couldn’t mandate that companies with more than 100 employees must require either proof of vaccination or of negative tests. That would have applied to something like 80 million people. According to six conservative justices, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) doesn’t have the authority to safeguard the health or safety of people who want to go work without getting COVID.
And speaking of Donald Trump, you may have noticed there is now an intraparty spat between the former president and wanna-be-presidential-contender, Ron DeSantis, who is also the governor of Florida. Trump is angry because DeSantis, once a Trump acolyte, has refused to say what Trump apparently calls “the magic words” — the promise not to run in 2024 if Trump tries again, as many expect.
The strange part is that COVID has become the battleground. When DeSantis refused to reveal whether he had gotten a booster shot, Trump said he had gotten his booster and lashed out at “gutless” politicians who dodge the question. We’ve seen Trump making occasional public forays to a tepid pro-vaccine position of late, but only, of course, if no mandates are involved.
In response, DeSantis went to Trump’s right, relitigating the long-ago fight about the L-word — lockdowns — and said he regretted not strongly opposing Trump’s call for lockdowns in the spring of 2020.
“Knowing now what I know then, if that was a threat earlier, I would have been much louder,” DeSantis said, before switching the blame to Dr. Fauci and his reliance on, you know, science.
It would be almost funny, except I’m having trouble — real trouble — seeing the humor these days, which can happen, I guess, when more than 850,000 Americans have died from COVID and more than 5.5 million worldwide.
And I can attest that a humor deficit is definitely among the symptoms when it’s one of your own who tests positive.
Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.