Thursday, July 1, 2021

On a holiday for the red, white and blue, we're still red vs. blue -- July 1, 2021 column


 What a difference a year makes. Last July 4th, most Americans were isolated, hunkered down at home under a pandemic cloud.

 This July 4th, in the sunny slogan of the White House, “America’s Back Together.”

 “Because of our vaccination program and our economic response – America is headed into a summer dramatically different from last year’s. A summer of freedom. A summer of joy. A summer of get-togethers and celebrations,” President Joe Biden tweeted last month.

 You can’t blame him for trying.

 The president and top administration officials are out and about -- at parades, baseball games, cookouts, and other events -- to “celebrate Independence Day and our independence from this virus,” the White House said.

 Biden will welcome 1,000 essential workers and military families to the South Lawn for a barbecue July 4. Fireworks will again explode over the National Mall.

 But wait. Independence from the virus? America back together? Not quite. Not yet.

 Biden narrowly missed the goal he set for July 4th of 70% of adults receiving at least one vaccination against COVID-19. His “Month of Action” in June aimed to be a sprint to the finish line but was more a slow walk.

 As of June 2, about 63% of adult Americans had received one shot and by June 30 about 66.5% had one shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Sixteen states, including Virginia, and the District of Columbia have met the 70% goal, but four states have vaccinated less than 50% of adults.

Meanwhile, the delta variant is a growing threat in every state. In Virginia, three-fourths of the 48 confirmed cases of the delta variant were unrelated to out-of-state or international travel, Dr. Danny Avula, Virginia state vaccine coordinator, said Wednesday.

 Still, Virginia’s state of emergency is no more, and the Centers for Disease Control says only the unvaccinated need to wear masks indoors in public places. The fully vaccinated need masks only when required – such as on planes and other public transportation – unless they have a weakened immune system.

 The World Health Organization, though, urges a more cautious approach, advising all the fully vaccinated to continue wearing masks and taking other pandemic precautions. In Israel, half those infected with the delta variant recently had been fully vaccinated.

 “People cannot feel safe just because they’ve had two doses. They still need to protect themselves,” WHO official Dr. Mariangela Simao told reporters.

While the number of coronavirus cases has declined greatly in the United States, more than 600,000 Americans have died of the disease. More than 11,000 COVID-19 cases are reported every day and just under 300 people die of the disease caused by the virus on average per day.

 Those who criticize Biden for missing his vaccination target may have forgotten how untethered from science some in the previous administration were. One year ago, the then-president insisted 99% of COVID-19 cases were “totally harmless” even though more than 129,000 Americans had perished from the virus and several states were suffering record levels of infections.

 That president used his July 3 speech at Mount Rushmore to fire up his base with a campaign-style attack on the “radical left.”

 The Biden administration will continue its no-drama efforts to use science to allay fears and motivate Americans to get vaccinated. People in the deep South and young people 18 to 26 have been slower to accept the need for the shots than others.

This Independence Day weekend indeed is different than the last. Americans are together with their families and friends. But it’s aspirational, at best, to say America is back as a country.

On a holiday dedicated to the red, white and blue, America is still red vs. blue. We have a way to go to bridge that gap, but the partisan divide should not extend to vaccinations.

Just as no one wants to be the last to die in a war, no one wants to be the last to die, or suffer long-term effects, from a disease that could have been prevented or mitigated by free, readily available vaccinations.

Each of us needs to take personal responsibility and do what we can to protect ourselves and each other from COVID-19. Only then will America truly be back together.

 (c)2021 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.





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