For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, Michigan has now skyrocketed to the top of the worst states in the nation for new COVID-19 cases. Considering the shocking fact that more Michiganders are hospitalized due to COVID than at any previous point in the pandemic, we aren’t the only ones to observe that what we are now doing to contain COVID-19 just isn’t working. Hospital intensive care units across the state are maxing out — again. The situation is so dire that U.S. military medical teams have been called in to provide emergency support to hospitals in Detroit and Grand Rapids.
Of course, the vast majority of the hospitalized are unvaccinated. Powered by an unrelenting intransigence that leaves Michigan’s fully vaccinated rate stuck in the mid-50s, we have to wonder if and when our long global nightmare will end. Our guess is never. Thanks to the persuasive idiocy of right-wing reactionaries, universal vaccination appears to be little more than a pipe dream. Ergo, the coronavirus will always be with us. And, as predicted in the earliest days of the pandemic, scary new variants will inevitably arise, driving a cycle of sickness and death that, in the absence of meaningful action, could carry on indefinitely.
Our nation’s complete failure to stymie the coronavirus is a storyline worthy of an epic Hollywood disaster flick, wherein a never-ending global pandemic with increasingly dangerous viral variants eventually overwhelms humankind’s capacity to fight back through vaccines and public health mandates, leading to the near-collapse of civilization. The title of the film will be “Omicron,” of course, and one of the lead roles will be played by none other than Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, whose self-proclaimed natural immunity to the coronavirus will end up saving the world.
Seriously, though, what’s next? The path of least resistance is to continue what we’re doing now, which is to allow people to make their own choices in the name of personal freedom and individual autonomy. Sadly, as COVID-related deaths continue to mount, there is no evidence to suggest that the result will be anything other than a permanent pandemic that ebbs and flows for years on end.
The other path is compulsion — using the coercive power of government to more or less force people into making the right choice. President Biden’s vaccination mandate for federal employees and private sector companies with more than 100 employees suggests he and his advisers have concluded we’re not getting out of this mess through voluntary compliance. We hope the predictable legal challenges to the president’s vaccination mandate are quickly dismissed and that our political and business leaders at every level get the message that there is still only one way out of this mess: universal vaccination.
As for us, we’re tempted to just give up on trying to persuade the unvaccinated to change their minds. Let them catch COVID-19. Let them deal with the consequences. Maybe they will live and maybe they will die. Maybe they will pass it on to a vulnerable relative who spends their final hours on a ventilator. Maybe they will learn and maybe they won’t.
Honestly, we are struggling with caring about people with so little regard for their own health, for that of their loved ones, and for the well-being of their community. The problem with the Darwinian approach is that we have finite capacity in our healthcare system to deal with these idiots. For the fourth time in the past 21 months, our state’s limited hospital resources are being exhausted by people who can’t bring themselves to get the vaccine but apparently have no problem dragging their sorry asses to the hospital when they get sick.
Think it doesn’t matter to you? Think again. Sparrow Health System just announced a moratorium on elective surgeries due to the strain on their resources. That hip replacement you were hoping to get to ease your daily pain? You’re going to have to wait a while. Need to go to the emergency room? Prepare for a long, long wait. Need to get admitted for a serious health condition? You’re going to have to wait in the hallway. They won’t be able to find you a bed because they are all occupied by the unvaccinated.
And where, we ask, is our state’s political leadership? Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has scurried into her bunker and closed the hatch behind her, evidently fearing a 2022 electoral backlash if she imposes any more public health mandates. Predictably, the Michigan Legislature, which has yet to show a shred of leadership at any point in the pandemic, is dead silent. It seems that folks like Sen. Shirkey, who had to shut down his own tool-and-die company for more than a week due to a COVID outbreak, and Speaker of the House Jason Wentworth are just fine with the pandemic spiraling out of control once again, straining our medical resources and exhausting frontline healthcare workers.
State lawmakers on both sides of the aisle appear to have not a scintilla of interest in doing anything to stem the tide. As for the Republicans who control both legislative chambers, they already won the battles that matter to them — stripping Whitmer of most of her emergency powers, for example — so what else needs to be done except standing back and watching the carnage play out?
What will it take to open their eyes? Frankly, we’re fresh out of answers, but we urge those of you who care enough to take action to light up your lawmaker’s phone line and fill up their email inbox with urgent pleas for the reinstatement of basic statewide public health mandates like masking while indoors, limitations on group gatherings and compulsory vaccination for all public employees.
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