I may be dead right.
Nearly two years ago, I wrote a column suggesting that, in the fight against Covid-19, our elders would be sacrificed. Last week, The Washington Post reported that we are seeing a rise in deaths among the vaccinated elderly. According to the Post, “Nearly two-thirds of the people who died during the recent Omicron surge were 75 and older.” During the Delta wave, only one-third of deaths were among the elders.
To date, more than 700,000 people over 65 have died of Covid in the U.S.
The irony is that most older people are vaccinated; it’s their age and other medical problems that contribute to mortality. I take no pleasure in being right. But the new rising deaths among our elders remind us that the pandemic is still a threat.
Every pandemic protocol has evolved over time. Americans, who are not great at nuance, are being forced to take a nuanced approach to fighting coronavirus.
Two years ago, schools were closed, and children were socially isolated. We did what we could do with what we knew then. If then President Donald Trump had followed the advice of his medical team early on, some 30,000 lives might have been saved, according to Deborah Birx, former White House coordinator for coronavirus response.
The availability of good testing kits was problematic into the Biden administration. Even today, access to anti-viral drugs is challenging in many communities. Covid produced no heroes.
There has been enough suffering to go around. Two and a half years into this plague, our teens are experiencing unprecedented mental health issues, our young parents are trying to keep their infants and toddlers safe until a vaccine is fully available, and working people are figuring out how and where to move forward with their careers.
I don’t think older folks have it worst, and I speak with some authority. Many of us have full and rich lives, but we all hoped that after a lifetime of working, we might have more years in the bank.
Everyone has experienced loss. I see, with my own grandkids, a kind of resignation to endless disappointments. No dates, no proms, no football games and, for way too long, no school. I see, with my nieces and nephew, the mix of joy and terror that attends raising infants in a pandemic.
I have seen people’s dreams evaporate as longtime businesses succumbed to the pandemic, as it surged from weeks to months to years.
Two years ago, I wrote that children need to get educated, and they need to get out of the house to play and meet friends. If not, we will have a generation of pandemic kids growing up with unique psychological problems. That, too, has come to pass.
So the opening of schools and camps and sports events and travel is all good, but not good for all. Then, as now, the needs of the children are in conflict with the need to protect our older people. The children must come first, but it isn’t an either/or situation. The problem can be addressed reasonably well. Nuance, again.
As the epidemiologists have told us, widespread testing, universal protections like masks and respect for medical guidelines can allow our kids and grandkids the social freedom they need and still help keep older people safe.
This isn’t perfect, but it isn’t rocket science, either.
Today in America, older people and immuno-compromised people, our mothers and fathers, our grandparents and our neighbors, would be safer if we all wore masks in common inside places. Why is it such a big ask to do a simple thing to protect someone else?
I get the relief of not having to wear a face covering, but I do not get the refusal to help keep others’ safe from serious illness and death.
I wrote two years ago about senicide, the practice, acceptable in some cultures, of killing older people or abandoning them to certain death. Has Covid become the 21st-century version of the ice floe?
That doesn’t have to be the deal. There is another way to move without stepping over bodies. Masks work. Social distancing is effective. Vaccines and boosters protect against the virus.
But I am not prepared to trust my health to the kindness of strangers. For my boomer brothers and sisters, we need to take care of ourselves, and that means making our own rules. We need our masks and, right now, we need to be extra careful about gathering indoors. Stop shaking hands! Carry hand sanitizer.
We need to find our lives again and renew our connections, but we must proceed with caution.
Copyright 2022 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.