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Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Rhode Island COVID transmission rate and deaths jet up

Vaccine mandates needed now more than ever

By Will Collette

When Tuesday’s COVID transmission rate was updated at 2 PM, I was shocked to see it at 236.3 per 100,000 when it was “only” 208 yesterday. The Health Department also reported six more COVID deaths.

I don’t recall seeing such a steep one-day jump in either transmission or death for months.

The rate of transmission tells us how widely COVID is passing through the population. For perspective, the transmission rate was only 12 per 1000,000 on July 4 so our community transmission rate has increased by nearly a factor of 20.

The total number of RI’s COVID dead crossed 2,800.

Meanwhile, accidental Governor Dan McKee is trying to decide whether to go through with his own plan to mandate vaccination for health care workers.

I think it’s a no-brainer: any health care worker who doesn’t believe in vaccination should not be a health care worker. Period. I would not want to be treated by one.

Yet 33 state Representatives including Charlestown’s own Blake “Flip” Filippi, village idiot Justin Price, conservative Westerly Democrat Sam Azzinaro and Charlestown’s Probate Judge Bob Craven signed a letter to McKee asking him NOTto mandate vaccination of health care workers.

I was surprised to see Bob Craven’s name on the list so I e-mailed him.

Dear Bob,

I ask you to reconsider signing on to Doc Corvese’s and Flip Filippi’s letter asking the Governor to lift the COVID vaccine mandate on health care workers.

Frankly, at this stage of the pandemic, it is a disgrace that ALL health workers aren’t already vaccinated, especially since they were top priority and first in line when the vaccines came out last winter.

Unvaccinated health care workers – especially those who work in nursing homes – should have been fired last March if they failed to get vaccinated in January and February.

They of all people should know better that we cannot control this pandemic without more people getting vaxxed. Fortunately, unvaccinated health workers are outliers; most health care workers understand the value of vaccines and have been vaxxed. These outliers will not be missed.

This is not about personal choice but about public health and safety. Vaccine mandates wiped out smallpox and polio.

You probably know that Ray Hull has already withdrawn his name from this letter. I hope you will do likewise and urge other House leadership who signed on to take their names off.

I received a one-line reply:

“We can’t make people get a vaccine and I don’t want there to be a lack of health care workers”

I challenged Bob on both points, sending him a link to the US Supreme Court’s Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905) which is the controlling decision affirming vaccine mandates as well as examples of the many other court-approved measures where the public health rights of the public override individual choice.

Further, health care workers had been eligible for the vaccines since January and should have gotten their shots long ago. I have not hear back from Bob on my second message.

Hospitalizations and deaths in Rhode Island, as elsewhere, are still largely limited to the unvaccinated, including many children under 12 who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. 

A recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) shows Rhode Island to have the third-highest per capita rate (behind Tennessee and South Carolina) of all states for COVID infections in children.

One prominent death last week was Barrington Police Sergeant Gino Caputo after an agonizing five weeks. WPRI reports his widow Cindy Caputo “said her husband chose not to get vaccinated against COVID-19 because he was healthy, had no underlying medical conditions and rarely got sick.”

Sgt. Caputo’s sister Rosamaria Gallucci said:

“A lot of people are going back and forth on vaccination, but the truth is, they really need to get vaccinated. They need to get vaccinated because this is a perfect example of what will happen if they don’t.”

Just over half of all Americans have been fully vaccinated. Roughly 64% of all Rhode Islanders (including the young, ineligible children) have been fully vaccinated. The outliers – the Trumpnuts and anti-vaxxers – represent a public health threat to all of us.

Our 133,000 young Rhode Island children under 12 are especially vulnerable. They are being hospitalized and dying. Many will suffer long-term effects.

Those of us who have been fully vaccinated face the threat of vaccine-resistant mutations of the coronavirus. One such mutation is already out there, the “mu variant,” which has been detected in Rhode Island.

According to Health Department data, as of September 14, 145,000 eligible Rhode Islanders have not been vaccinated.

This minority has chosen to threaten the lives of small children, the state’s economy and our well-being. The fact that some of them are health care workers is a disgrace.

We cannot simply allow ourselves to continue to drift through this pandemic without a sharpened focus on what it takes to end it.

That means mandatory masking, vaccination and social distancing. It means major upgrades in ventilation and air quality in schools, businesses and public places. It means restricting travel from states where it is official policy to allow COVID to run wild, such as Texas and Florida.

Hospitals and other health care facilities should have triage measures in place to put the willfully unvaccinated at the bottom of the priority list for ER and ICU treatment.

Let’s stop coddling the unvaccinated. They are, by choice, putting themselves and all of us in harm’s way.