June 9, 2021

A tale of two paths diverging

Today Seattle’s mayor announced that the city reached the goal of fully vaccinating 70% of people above the age of 12. Wow. I feel lucky to live here. Fifteen months ago, we were the epicenter of the pandemic as it was gathering steam, still so much unknown. I wrote then that we were all pretty fearful we may already had been exposed. We didn’t know much about the illness yet, just that it could be deadly. The city started shutting down, people worked to flatten the curve, and it worked. We were so successful that rather than having the most cases since we were the first, we have had the least number of cases in a big city except Honolulu. We have had half as many infections as the rest of the country and and many less deaths. And now we are homing in on herd immunity. Life is opening up again, visits are lively and hugs are plenty. Most of us still wear masks out of courtesy to others, when appropriate. Only 1 in 1,416 people in King County have died compared to 1 in 555 countrywide.

I can’t imagine how much more difficult my year would have been if I lived in another area. Not to mention that I could have been infected myself. I feel we have been spared compared to so many places. Spared not just from the disease itself, but from the hostility and divisiveness occurring elsewhere, most often in locations that suffered more infections and deaths per capita. Watching and listening to these stories are heart wrenching. Do people really believe that vaccines cause you to become magnetic?

Here in Seattle the pandemic feels as if it is dwindling away, but I fear elsewhere that will not be the case. The unvaccinated will be susceptible and may not be spared, but worse, they put the vulnerable at risk who may not be protected by a vaccine because they are immunocompromised. Just like masking, vaccines protect more than the individual- they protect others, especially now that the new, more infectious variants are circulating. A local columnist wrote an article about the two societies developing between those vaccinated and those not. Already, 97% of new COVID-19 cases are in the un-immunized.

If you look at the NYT map that shows vaccinations by county, you see that most darker areas are urban counties, representing high vaccination rates. The lighter areas are where uptake is lower. Keep looking and you will notice that some western state counties are darker than the much lighter areas around them. Many of those are tribal lands. You can easily see it in Northern New Mexico and Arizona where the Navajo and Pueblo tribes live, including the Hopi and Zuni. The tribes have made a concerted effort to vaccinate, protecting their valued elders who carry such important memories and knowledge. These sovereign nations have worked hard to protect their citizens from disease. They learned the hard way so many centuries ago that disease can wipe out so much so quickly.

I understand that many people want reassurance the vaccines cause no harm, they want choice, they want security, they don’t want “an experiment”. That is the choice the professional golfer, Jon Rahm, made when he declined vaccination several times and then became positive, potentially exposing others. I wonder how they will feel if they cause someone to become ill or die, because of their choices.

How to help? Engaging and answering questions is key. The NYT has a good example of how to talk with someone, actually making a difference. And keep protecting yourself. All this makes me grateful that I live here in this beautiful place surrounded by people who consider science and manners important.

Wash your hands, cover your nose as needed, hug the vaccinated, and don’t try hanging keys on your forehead. They won’t stick because they are probably made from brass so aren’t magnetic anyway.

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.

Key tip: Jamie Hascall