We Dare Defend Our Rights. OK, but What About Our Health?

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Greg Markley

By GREG MARKLEY

An old maxim is “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.” That may be what the 34% of Alabamians not vaccinated for COVID virus (as of Aug. 3) is doing. After all, the state motto is “We dare defend our rights.” Translated into Latin it is: “Audemus jura nostra defendere.”

 State mottos are not usually on the lips of citizens, but in Alabama the motto is well-known and used often. It is a battle cry for state versus federal conflicts such as “water wars” or cases of the Feds’ role in public schools or in matters of race and voting rights.

 “Folks are supposed to have common sense,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in Birmingham on July 23. “But it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.” Reporters asked if she would create a mask mandate or restrict employees, but she referred to the role of unvaccinated citizens in the crisis.

 “Almost 100% of the new hospitalizations are with unvaccinated folks,” Ivey explained. “And the deaths are certainly occurring with unvaccinated folks. They are choosing a horrible lifestyle of self-inflicted pain. Why would we want to mess around with just temporary stuff (such as a mask mandate)?” The governor herself received both doses of COVID vaccine in December.

 In an editorial, The Dothan Eagle said it understood the governor’s frustration. Asked what she would do next to remedy the lack of vaccinated people, Ivey told a reporter, sharply: “I don’t know; you tell me!” She is genuinely concerned that people are unnecessarily getting ill when they can get a free shot with a high performance rate.

 The Eagle was not hysterical, like Kyle Whitmire’s dystopic column of Aug. 1, at al.com. Sure, this is a crisis, but that column minimized what the governor has tried thus far. And, in a shallow attack column, Whitmire wrote ‘With an election less than a year away, Ivey seems more worried about opposition in the Republican primary than she is about the health and safety of her constituents.” One thing is for sure: al.com loves words more than solutions.

.If Ivey was scared of the Rights’ electoral power, she would have more gently blamed them for not getting vaccinated. Instead she told it like it is. Her tone would have been muted, if she was afraid of tough GOP opposition. Yet Whitmire whimpers that she is too political. For goodness sake even the NYT and CNN noted her bold approach. Recently two potential challengers (both are constitutional officers) decided to run for reelection, not for governor.

   The fractured state economy is another Ivey motivation for getting beyond the COVID-19 era. Despite a bullish economy before the pandemic, with Alabama a leader nationally in high employment, she got little recognition from national media. The old economy will be tough to regain soon. Dr. Ricardo Maldonado, an infectious disease doctor at East Alabama Medical Center, said people should not minimize the dangers in skipping the vaccine.

 “I have already witnessed too much death and pain from this virus,” Maldonado reported. “I wouldn’t wish dying from COVID-19 on my worst enemy. There are two things in common among the vast majority of those patients who are severely ill with COVID-19: They are not vaccinated, and they truly never thought it would happen to them or their family member.”

 In excess of 85 percent of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are due to the Delta variant, according to Maldonado. The variant is at least 50%  more contagious and maybe more serious than other variants from earlier in the crisis. He adds: “The good news is that mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) still provide excellent protection against the Delta variant at nearly 90 percent.”

 The governor’s remarks of July 23 were frantic. They were also forceful and came from the heart, not a focus group. Ivey told us what is at stake, medically and societally if vaccinations do not rise. (There was a small uptick in people taking the shots, just days after her remarks.) But Alabama citizens still need to roll up their sleeves — literally — and get the shot.

 There are several reasons for that, but Ivey’s “sound bites” were probably part. We have far to go to escape from having our recovery from COVID-19 being stopped by its Delta variant. What to do? Alabama would benefit from a two-line motto. “We dare defend our rights … we dare defend our health.

Greg Markley first moved to Lee County in 1996. He has Masters’ in education and history. He taught politics as an adjunct in Georgia and Alabama. An award-winning writer in the Army and civilian life, he has contributed to the Observer for 11 years.  gm.markley@charter.net

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