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THOMPSON: When will the anti-vaxers and anti-maskers admit they're wrong?

August 30, 2021 - 12:00 PM



It could have been so different…so much more much better for everyone. But the adults - who should know better - made decisions that even children might ponder more soberly. The adults and children of whom I speak are in Mississippi…but they could be anywhere.

Children rely on adults…a good parent’s every act should serve the best interests of those too young to consider and choose a proper path. That’s how it used to be when I was a child…without question…without debate.

I was one of millions of children vaccinated against polio in 1956…at six years old. Every kid in my school lined up for the shot…it was mandatory in Florida. Every parent wanted their child safe…to breathe without the help of an iron lung…to live and not die.

A few years later, an oral vaccine - pink drops on a sugar cube - replaced shots in school…again given to every child. The vaccines effectively ended the threat of polio in America.

I find myself longing for those days…a time when people shared the same facts…a time when there was no FaceBook to spread lies and conspiracy theories that undermined common sense…or caring about others…or endowing rights that don’t exist. People - adults - used to act in the best interests of the public…even strangers. Of course, parents always did what was best for children.

There has long been a saying in the South…“Thank God for Mississippi”…a trope most common in neighbouring Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee, but heard throughout the region. The inference was clear…no matter where your state ranked in almost any matter - healthcare, education, poverty…you name it - you could be sure you were better off than living in Mississippi.

Today, as you read this, Mississippi ranks not at the bottom but near the top in deaths from COVID-19…a dubious distinction. With just over 8,000 deaths, it is little comfort among Mississippians that more people have died in every neighbouring state - Alabama, Louisiana and Tennessee - except Arkansas.

Even so, you can bet that plenty of Alabamians, Cajuns and Tennesseans are still saying, “Thank God for Mississippi.” Old stereotypes die hard.

The school year in Mississippi’s counties starts in crazy-quilt fashion…with some opening nearly a month ago…and others near Labour Day. Still, hospitals in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana are already reporting a disturbing trend…more patients are dying…and increasingly those patients are children.

Most kids are back in school all across Mississippi. And there is the rub. The children are mostly unvaccinated…not just those under 12 who aren’t yet authorized…but those ages 12 to 17.

In fact, living up to its old stereotype…only 35 percent of adults in Mississippi have been vaccinated…48th among 50th states. “Thank God for Mississippi.”

Of the just over 2,400 Mississippians who have died since vaccinations were available earlier this year, 98.4 percent were unvaccinated. Just 37 people who were vaccinated - all with underlying health conditions and mostly 65 years old or older - have died.

The jury is not still out on this issue. People who don’t get vaccinated are most likely to get COVID-19 and die. Those who are vaccinated have less severe cases…and rarely die.

Still, like believers in the “Flat Earth Society” or Q-Anon, a huge number of Mississippians are still saying, “No way” to vaccinations. They have all manner of excuses. They don’t trust science and doctors. They believe people aren’t actually dying…it’s all fake. They have a right to say, “No!”

It is all bogus, of course. The Earth is round not flat. Trust science and doctors…they are almost always right in matters of health. People are dying…nearly 650,000 in the U.S. alone. And, “No,” in matters of public health…you have no right to endanger others. Period.

I’m weary of those who say we must be empathetic of the feelings of those who are anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers. Bullshit. We must make it mandatory to do what is right, what is supported by fact and science and good public health policy.

Not even in Mississippi do they let people drive without a driver’s license…or drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol…or not wear seatbelts…or go 70 MPH in a 35 MPH zone. You don’t have some right or freedom to not follow those rules because the result could be unnecessary death. Just like this pandemic.

Last weekend, a 13-year-old girl, Mkayla Robinson, in Smith County, Mississippi died in hospital. Smith County, population about 16,000, has recorded 2,012 COVID-19 cases and 96 related deaths.

The Smith County School District reported more than 80 students have tested positive for COVID-19 in the three weeks since school opened. Some 479 students across four schools are in quarantine. Eleven of the district's teachers and assistants have the virus, and 23 others who have been close to them are quarantined, as well.

By the way, just 23 percent of Smith County residents have been vaccinated…well behind the rest of the state…which, I remind you, ranks 48th of 50 states.

Most the kids in Smith County and throughout Mississippi are not wearing masks either…largely because their parents don’t. The adults and children gather without social distancing at restaurants, in shops and malls.

The adults and children are, in fact, doing everything…exactly wrong. I wonder why parents don’t care enough about their children to do the right things…to limit the spread of the pandemic…limit the number of their children dying. 

These are dangerous people…dangerous to themselves, their children…dangerous to everyone else. There are more of these folks in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida and South Dakota than one would hope. They are most all Republicans…a faction that borders on a cult.

Indeed, there are misguided people everywhere…here in British Columbia…right here in the Okanagan. One has to wonder…here or Mississippi…will adults admit they’re wrong and do what is in everyone’s best interests? Or, will they simply bury their children…and move on? Thank God for Mississippi.

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines.

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