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Kicking the can

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Last November, I started a column with this barbed quote from Washington Governor Jay Inslee:

“I have urged the Idaho leaders to show some leadership. One of the reasons we have such jammed up hospitals in Spokane is because Idaho, frankly, has not done some of the things we’ve found successful.”

The states are still doing things differently, though both have experienced recent protests from people complaining about nearly anything the states have done to curtail Covid-19. The results between the two are distinctive. One study placed Washington among the 10 states with the highest vaccination rates, and Idaho among the 10 states with the lowest. An article pointed out, “In the 10 states with the lowest vaccination rates, there is an average of about 34 deaths per 1 million residents, and in states with the highest, the average is six deaths per 1 million, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.”

This gets echoed, in turn, in Covid-19 cases loads and death rates.

The pandemic could largely have been over by now. Vaccination has worked; as with other vaccines, some cases still slip through even with the inoculated, but populations which are more thoroughly vaccinated have either avoided Covid-19 entirely or experienced few impacts from it. The return of masking is a direct result of people failing to obtain free and easily available vaccines. Blame usually is a tricky thing to conclusively assign, but it’s not hard to do in this case.

The pandemic is not over. Here are some headlines on the Idaho Statesman web site during a single day last week:

“Canyon County hit with largest COVID-19 case increase since last November.” “More Idahoans are using ivermectin to treat COVID-19. Officials warn it could be dangerous.” (The newest member of one of Idaho’s regional health boards repeatedly has promoted ivermectin for the purpose.) “North Idaho health system nears capacity as COVID-19 surge worsens. State adds 22 deaths.” “Sheriff vows to still fight Washington COVID rules after being hospitalized with virus.” “Christian radio host who asked if vaccine is form of government control dies of COVID.” “Unvaccinated dad dies of COVID in Texas months after child is born.”

Those headlines come a couple of weeks after the state narrowly averted an Idaho legislative session for which the plan was in essence to prevent almost anyone – including private businesses, most of which have been acting very responsibly – to take steps to avoid illness and stay healthy.

One of the top stories of last week was a warning from state health officials that some Idaho hospitals are two weeks away from being swamped with Covid-19 cases – this, months after vaccines have become widely available and only a little longer than that since Idaho hospitals previously were pushed to the breaking point.

Dr. Kathryn Turner, the state’s deputy state epidemiologist, seemed to suggest in a news story that may be only the beginning: “The surge is driving our projections upward to about 30,000 cases per week by mid-October. This is beyond what we saw last winter, when our cases peaked in December.”

And hospitalizations in the state could run to 2,500 a week.

This could have and should have been not much more than a one-year pandemic: Three or four months ago, we were on track to containing it, with an end or near-end to the masking and all the rest.

Now, because of specific groups of people determined to wage culture war – and sorry if that offends you, but that is the reason – it continues on, and we’re stuck with having to contain a health fire that should be mostly extinguished by now.

We’re past the point where a newly mutated virus is doing this to us. We’re now more at a point where we’re doing it to ourselves.

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