If Oregon seniors weren't so justifiably afraid of coming down with COVID-19, they should be marching in the streets after Governor Brown announced yesterday that those 65+ would have to wait in line behind teachers to get vaccinated.
This is a hugely irresponsible decision that is going to cause many old people to die.
According to the Oregon Health Authority, those 60 and over comprise 17% of Covid cases in the state and a whopping 91% of the Covid deaths.
Yet Brown said at a press conference that I watched via You Tube that children are suffering from distance learning and need to get back into in-person instruction as soon as possible.
Hey, Governor, you know who else has been suffering?
The 1,600 Oregon seniors who have died from Covid, many of them isolated from loved ones in a hospital bed, unable to say goodbye other than, maybe, via an iPad held up by an ICU nurse.
Children have their lives ahead of them. Seniors are nearing the end of their lives. Children can recover from learning problems during this pandemic. Seniors who die from Covid are gone forever, no second chances.
Currently the plan is to start vaccinating most day care, preschool, and K-12 school employees on January 25. Seniors have to wait two weeks, with Oregonians ages 80+ starting to get the vaccine on February 8, followed by ages 75+ on February 15, 70+ on February 22, and 65+ on March 1.
This likely is an optimistic schedule. But even if it holds up, every senior who wants the Covid vaccine won't be able to get both doses until well into April, around three months from now.
Today 41 Oregonians died from Covid. Let's look on the bright side and say that only 20 die on average each day during the next three months, 90 days. That's 1,800 additional deaths. If 91% are seniors 60+, over 1,600 old people will die.
Sure, some seniors will be immunized in time to prevent getting the disease. So let's cut that number in half: 800. Or maybe you think I'm being too pessimistic. OK, cut the number in half again: 400.
Is it worth 400 senior deaths to give Oregon children a few months of in-person instruction?
That's my guess, given that it seems unlikely all school personnel could get their first shot before February 8, with the second shot being given three or four weeks later, which gets us to March 1-8. Full immunity takes a few weeks after the second shot.
So it would be the end of March before school personnel are 95% safe from Covid. Will schools reopen before this happens? I doubt it. Teachers would resist entering classrooms before their second dose has taken effect.
Thus if summer vacation starts in June, Governor Brown is saying that it is worth hundreds of senior deaths to give children eight weeks or so of in-person instruction this school year.
Here's a not-so-crazy idea.
Ask teachers, parents, and students if they are OK with this? Have a statewide discussion about the morality of condemning the grandparents of school children to die so their grandchildren can sit in a classroom for a few months.
Consider what a learning experience it would be for educators to talk about how putting off in-person instruction until the fall of 2021 is a sacrifice being made so many old people can live.
My wife and I are 71 and 72, respectively. We were fortunate to be able to get a first dose of the Pfizer Covid vaccine last Thursday, though a bit unfairly.
I'm happy about that. But I'm sad whenever I think about the seniors we know who, like us, have been living in fear for almost a year of coming down with COVID-19.
The Oregon Health Authority statistics show that a bit over 7% of those 60+ with COVID-19 die. That's 1 out of 14. Many or most of the other 13 suffer a lot, since seniors are affected much more than younger people by the Covid virus.
So it isn't irrational for many seniors to stay sheltered at home, unwilling to go out except for groceries, which often are picked up because those old people are wary of going into stores. Governor Brown spoke of the despair of students who can't be in the classroom.
Brown needs to spend more time talking with seniors who have been isolating to a much greater degree than students about their despair, their loneliness, their fear of getting sick and dying alone.
There's still time for Governor Brown and the Oregon Health Authority to rethink their plan to make seniors wait to get the Covid vaccine until school personnel have been immunized. I hope they do.