Troy Williams: The COVID-19 pandemic is drawing battle lines
The highly contagious omicron variant of COVID-19 pushed North Carolina’s infection rate to record highs last week. Hopefully, the numbers finally peaked; they were nearly eight times higher than the acceptable rate of 5%.
Understandably, most citizens are suffering from pandemic fatigue; however, COVID continues to be a formidable force in our daily lives. Hospitals across the state are continuing to fill up with COVID-19 patients. Last week, more than 5,000 North Carolinians were hospitalized receiving care for the disease — a record high.
The good news is that omicron is predicted to be declining. The bad news is that Omicron is by no means the last variant that we will likely see.
Public health officials encourage citizens to wear the N95 masks, free at specific locations. N95 masks are certified to offer more protection against COVID-19 and other illnesses than other face coverings. Testing, face masks, vaccinations and boosters are still considered by most experts as the safest path forward through the pandemic.
Unfortunately, many anti-vaxxers and other groups refuse to wear masks. Former NBA basketball star John Stockton, perhaps Gonzaga University's most famous basketball alum, has been barred from attending games at his alma mater after refusing to wear a mask. Stockton has publicly stated he will not take the vaccine and calls his treatment by Gonzaga “flat discrimination and flat segregation.”
Reportedly, his children told him he had to get vaccinated to see the grandkids, and he still would not get vaccinated. Stockton is not alone in his behavior, and it isn’t easy to explain.
There are numerous instances of passengers refusing to wear a mask on airline flights. The outcome is easily predictable: The passenger refuses to obey instructions to wear a mask, they become disruptive, the plane turns back and the passenger is booted off the aircraft. The police are waiting to take them into custody, and the rest of the law-abiding passengers are delayed and inconvenienced.
I acknowledge upfront that I’m in the mask-wearing, vaccine-boosted crowd, and I wish more people thought like me. I generally tell people I encounter about my vaccine-boosted status in professional and social settings.
I don’t want to dismiss anti-maskers’ and anti-vaxxer’s views. However, with the arrival of vaccines, compassion for COVID-19 deaths is on the decline, especially if the deceased refused to get the vaccine.
Even if some people don’t believe the science, it’s hard to ignore the math: The majority of COVID-19 deaths are among the unvaccinated, and these deaths are likely preventable. COVID-19 deaths are beginning to resemble the early phase of HIV/AIDS deaths, in that people are hiding that their unvaccinated loved ones died of COVID-19. Instead, survivors opt not to tell the whole story out of fear that their loved ones’ death will be politicized and a source of gossip.
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Indeed, COVID-19 has to be the most politicized disease of modern times. A Virginia parent, a 42-year-old female, was charged after threatening to bring loaded guns into her children’s school following a dispute over mask-wearing policies. She said she would “bring every single gun loaded and ready” if the schools made her kids wear a mask during class.
Meanwhile, I notice people around town violating the mask mandates daily. The sign is on the business’ door that says ‘mask required,’ and I believe they can read — but what the heck, they don’t want to do it. What do I do in those situations? Keep my mouth shut and keep stepping.
It’s becoming a pandemic war zone. COVID-19 is already taking too many lives. We can’t allow our disagreements about it to do the same thing.
Troy Williams is a member of The Fayetteville Observer Community Advisory Board. He is a legal analyst and criminal defense investigator. Williams also does a weekly podcast, RUD:Educate, with Fayetteville City Councilwoman Tisha Waddell and former N.C. Rep. Elmer Floyd. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: Troy Williams: The COVID-19 pandemic is drawing battle lines