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Political disease


I have wondered why it took so long for Idaho health care employers to require their workers to be immunized against Covid 19. Maybe they were anticipating the political reaction. Three large employers did just that this last week, and of course, they got the predictable reaction: umbrage, outrage, bluster and brouhaha.

When I got matched as a resident to work in Spokane hospitals, back when dinosaurs still roamed the Northwest, my first week of orientation included a bunch of blood tests, skin tests, and shots. They wanted to know if I had HIV, or tuberculosis. They checked that I was immune to Hepatitis A & B, measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox.

Every different employer I have had over these long years has had similar requirements, now Hepatitis C is added to the list.

Hepatitis B and C and HIV are transmitted through body fluids, not aerosol. But the ER and the OR and labor and delivery have sharp things and lots of blood. The risk of me getting the disease from others was real, and so was the patients’ risk if I happened to be a carrier. So, such a mandate by these employers made common sense. I’ll admit to feeling some initial hesitation, kind of like I feel every year when I have to renew my medical license. But it’s about making tradeoffs in this crowded world, and some pondering and reflection eased my hesitancy.

But Covid is now a political disease, not an infectious virus. Where you stand on the political spectrum, what news you listen to, what flag you fly from your Trump pole will lend more influence than half a million or more excess deaths.
Here’s how many died in 2019 from some of those other diseases we have screened health care workers for since dinosaur days:

Viral Hepatitis: 4,285
HIV:15,815 (total deaths from all causes in HIV infected people, most not directly from HIV)
Tuberculosis: 542
Measles: 0

Half a million Covid deaths seems like a big deal when stacked up to this list.
There is no doubt there is immunization hesitancy out there. I work in a clinic that offered free shots to all employees and about a quarter are still un-immunized. Masks are required, and if you don’t want to wear one you can look for work elsewhere.

I had to put on a fluorescent vest and a plastic hardhat just to tour a lumbermill in Laclede. They also had me sign a waiver their lawyers had written up. I’m still a free man.

And that’s an employer’s choice in Idaho and in most states. Some workplaces have mandatory drug testing. Does that infringe on “freedoms”?

So, when Janice McGeachin, my Lieutenant Governor calls this “medical tyranny”, I have to laugh. You know, and I know exactly what she’s doing. But I’m old and can’t hear dog whistles anymore. But I can see when they are being blown.
If her posturing and misguided pose appeals to you, then I can predict what flag you fly. I’m sorry, but I wish there was a flag for the “Common Sense Militia”.

We’d meet every week and have coffee. We’d laugh at each other’s mistakes and tell stories about ourselves and our silly neighbors. Somebody might bring up politics, but that would get boring real fast. We’d probably talk amongst ourselves about whether we had gotten “the shots” or were taking ivermectin.

Some guys might even wear a side arm, but long guns in a coffee shop aren’t common sense. They belong out in the pickup.

I hope this virus hasn’t robbed us of our common sense. With all the problems we have, we sure need it.

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