It was right after the first day of school, and our brand-new fourth grader (don’t look for his “first day!” picture on Fakebook or anywhere else) was telling us about his day.
“Yeah,” A. said. “They said to reach up and hang onto the door to hide your feet.”
Oh, my wife D. and I acknowledged immediately. So the gunman can’t see your feet under the stalls. Smart. Absolutely absurd, and ridiculous, but smart.
“They also said that when you’re hiding, to breathe soft,” A. went on, “not to huuugh huuugh huuugh real loud.”
D. and I were like, This is it. This is our lives now. In the greatest country on Earth, we are teaching our schoolchildren not to breathe instead of passing sensible gun laws. The sad fact is that all of us, Democrats and Republicans, just accept it. We just lie back and swallow all of that nonsense about bipartisanship while voting accordingly only to be heartbroken by gridlock due to the solidly bicameral mind. Don’t misunderstand. There’s only one side to trust now. I’m sorry, conservatives, but your party is now devoting itself to the destruction of democracy, and in that sense, I can understand the Dems’ efforts to walk alone. Not accepting the results of the 2020 presidential election is conservatives’ first sin. (Trump, claiming “voter fraud,” went 1-60 in court. #neverforget) Your second sin is thinking COVID-19 is no big deal. It is, and now that school is back in session, things are only going to get worse.
In a 7-day span last week, the Star-Telegram said, the coronavirus struck 5,000 more Tarrant County residents. About 250 of them — almost all of them unvaccinated — were sent to hospitals. Adult ICU bed occupancy is at 94%. The pandemic high was 99% on Dec 28. On Monday, Tarrant County reported two COVID deaths and 623 new cases. Since the virus took hold, the county has reported 287,244 cases, which includes 3,707 deaths and an estimated 265,583 recoveries. The rate of confirmed COVID patients in the North Central Texas Trauma Region (45 counties) is 17.10%, at his highest since 17.15% on Feb 4.
Since COVID patient Gov. Greg Abbott banned mask mandates like the heartless jerk he is, Texas now has the highest number of COVID cases in seven months, and seven of the state’s 22 trauma regions have zero ICU beds.
What’s funny — not funny-haha but funny-odd — is that the numbers haven’t been this bad since last winter, when Abbott et al. shut down our knowable world (limiting indoor capacities, banning gatherings, and forcing in-person students to wear masks).
The difference now? Conservative rage. We have a popular U.S. president, a Democrat, who won a landslide victory as most states — which are Republican because of gerrymandering — are clawing to power in objection to the mandate that President Joe Biden was given by We, the People to the tune of 7 million more votes than The Former Guy. Tarrant County’s top elected official, Judge Glen Whitley, is not enthused by Abbott’s approach or the politicization of life-saving science.
“I’m not hearing anything from the state,” he told the Star-T. “It’s all ‘personal responsibility.’ Well, if everything’s a matter of personal responsibility, why have any laws?”
The surprising twist is that this new COVID variant, delta, that has formed in the cesspools of humanity that the unvaxxed have created by ignoring science and hewing to the words of vaccinated conmen on TV is attacking young people, children included.
Last Thursday, the DFW Hospital Council said there are no available pediatric ICU beds in North Texas, the highest level of pediatric COVID patients ever treated in the region (19 counties). Nationally, The New York Times said, the number of children in the hospital and the number of new admissions every day are the highest they’ve ever been, based on federal data dating back to October. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just released guidance recommending universal masking for all students and school staffers. Despite Abbott’s anti-mask order, some of the largest school districts in the state, including Fort Worth, are requiring masks. Experts are calling the circumstances for the surge in pediatric cases a “perfect storm,” an amalgam of relaxed public health protocols, a sharp drop in vaccinations, and the emergence of the delta variant, mostly likely because of the lack of vaccinations.
As delta may be familiar to health care providers by this point, there’s one big difference. The young patients can speak because they’re not on mechanical ventilators but high-flow oxygen systems. One doctor in Miami, a sweet man, often talks to them.
“Every single patient regrets not getting the vaccine,” Dr. De La Zerda told the Times. “I don’t have one that doesn’t. They look really sick, and they look really young. You can see somebody now talking to you, and the next time you see them, they’re dead.”
Reportedly and anecdotally, one of the reasons conservatives are reluctant to get vaxxed is that the vaccine lacks FDA approval, even though its origins date back years. As if you had to ask, these same conservatives are buying into Regeneron, a monoclonal antibody that also … lacks FDA approval, but since it’s coming from Republican pols who are probably swallowing money from Regen’s backers, our conservative friends and loved ones will take their pants off to fart. That’s an old Chinese idiom that applies here. “It’s useful in describing things that are needlessly complicated,” tweets Citizens for Ethics’ Robert Maguire, “like a governor [Florida’s Ron DeSantis] offering a costly experimental treatment for a disease that people can avoid by getting a cheap vaccine and wearing a mask.” (Maguire follows this up with “BREAKING: The DeSantis administration has declared that cars in Florida will no longer be required to have seatbelts, but every car in the state will be followed by its own individual ambulance.” Awesome.)
What’s doubly frustrating is that the unvaxxed claiming “my body, my choice” (insert: pro-choice joke) are endangering all of us. Even deadlier or vaccine-resistant variants could emerge. The science proves that vaccines prevent 75-85% of symptomatic infections and 90-98% of hospitalizations and deaths. Vaccines also reduce transmission by a shit-ton. There’s no way to tell how much exactly, but it’s a literal shit-ton.
Masks help, too, but best if everyone is onboard. “A colleague has a 4 y/o who is intubated due to COVID,” an MD recently tweeted, “and asked us, a group of physician friends, how to tell the 6 y/o their sibling may not come home. This is what happens when you leave masks up to parent choice — this child wore TWO masks, other kids didn’t.”
I just can’t understand it. How has wearing a cloth covering over your face become such a big deal? And not just any cloth covering but one that can prevent you from catching a deadly virus? Just put the fucking thing on, stop your whining like a snowflake, and go about your day. The mask is not going to hurt your baby face. You can breathe perfectly fine (though if you need to catch your breath, certainly drop your covering to your chin until your breathing returns to normal), and, maybe my favorite part, the mask covers half your ugly fucking face. Is this really the hill some people want to die on? Not wearing a piece of fabric?
The only hill I’m willing to die on is the one that keeps my kid masked at school. Unlike Fort Worth and dozens of others, my school district is waiting to see what the big-boy districts do before making a call, which is typical. Not unexpected or offensive but typical. I only hope A.’s immune system can hold out until the call is made to enforce masks on all the students and staff. He’s asthmatic.
The despair, it is there. Sometimes it threatens to overwhelm me. The rage never goes away. It’s kind of like a toothache. Rub some alcohol on it and pray it goes away because letting some masked person stick their gloved fingers in your unmasked mouth still doesn’t seem like a good idea about now.
This column reflects the opinions of the editorial board and not necessarily the Fort Worth Weekly. To submit a column, please email Editor Anthony Mariani at firstname.lastname@example.org. Submissions will be edited for factuality and clarity.