Maybe everybody who gets the shot should also receive an American flag pin. And those who shun the vaccine—or undermine it, like Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado—should stop wearing them entirely.
A Republican such as her who has prattled about “needle Nazis” might not seem so remarkable anymore. But even as much of America seems to be reaching some kind of pandemic stability, her state has moved back into the red.
The experts can only offer educated guesses why COVID cases are rising in Colorado while declining in other parts of the country. And they can only surmise why the state is also seeing a huge increase in medical urgencies of all kinds.
But one thing is certain.
“There is a 100 percent correlation between the lower-rate vaccination communities and the higher-rate COVID communities,” Dr. Richard Zane, chair of emergency medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and personally in the fight non-stop, told The Daily Beast.
He is equally sure regarding the best way to address the surge.
“Get vaccinated,” he said.
He emphasized that it is not just a personal choice, even if disinformation-spewing celebrities like Aaron Rodgers might insist otherwise.
“It’s a societal obligation and an act of patriotism,” he said.
Just over 62 percent of Coloradans have fully fulfilled this duly, making it one of the states with the highest vaccination rates. But just over 37 percent are unvaccinated, and according to the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, they comprise more than 80 percent of COVID cases.
New cases are up 42 percent, to a daily average of 3,737 as of Thursday. That is considerably over what the epidemiology models foresaw when this new surge began.
“We’re on track to have the worst spike in the pandemic,” Zane said. “We are looking at Thanksgiving as our next biggest challenge.”
But what they had feared would come next month is already here. The numbers are pointing toward a very bleak holiday season.
“I think many of us could not have predicted it would be this challenging now,” he said, adding, “It’s middle school math.”
Even as the unvaccinated fill the emergency rooms and the hospitals, they are causing a further backlog of non-COVID cases already generated by the previous surge.
A myriad of procedures are being suspended and delayed.
“It’s not just cosmetic elective surgery,” Zane said. “People are not getting their cancer operated on.”‘
Delays in diagnosis and treatment complicate what would otherwise be simple, straightforward cases. That includes not only cancer, but also strokes and heart conditions and other emergencies where docs say “time is tissue,” meaning fast care can prevent lasting damage.
In an effort to reduce such potentially deadly postponements, the state this week reactivated its crisis standards of care, which permit hospitals to shuffle staff and transfer patients as needed. The provision also allows for assistance from the National Guard.
In the meantime, the patients are sicker, there are too many of them, and more keep coming. Zane calls it “health care at the breaking point in Colorado.”
And he says those who fail to get the COVID vaccine are ultimately to blame. “It’s not just about you,” he said of getting vaccinated.
Those who shunned the safe and effective vaccines could cheat a cancer patient of a chance at survival, or leave a stroke victim too far gone to recover.
Some experts have attributed the Colorado surge partly to its early success in getting a large number of people vaccinated. The effectiveness of those shots may now be on the wane, and the state has said that all Coloradans can now get the booster shot.
But those cases would only explain the infections mapping the 20 percent of new cases who were vaccinated.
When asked what propelled the other, much larger COVID numbers, Zane suggested that it might have to do with the sections of the state where as many as 70 percent of the people have not been vaccinated at all.
Another potential factor Zane cited: people mobbing restaurants and other places that had been emptied during the previous surge.
“Everybody out and about at the same time,” he said.
But all that could also apply in states that are not experiencing a smiler rise in infections. “People are looking at Colorado in disbelief,” Zane said.
He suggested that the rest of the country should keep in mind that if it is happening now in Colorado, it could happen elsewhere in the future.
“This is preventable,” Zane said. “If you’re looking at Colorado, think of your own community and how you can stop it. And the only way you can prevent it is to get your community vaccinated.”
Forget Boebert and other flag waving anti-vaxxers who endanger the nation. If you want to call yourself a patriot, do your patriotic duty.