Unvaccinated are fueling a resurgence of COVID

Published 4:30 pm Friday, November 19, 2021

Just a month ago, it looked like we were getting ready to put the worst of the coronavirus pandemic behind us. Now we’re back to talking about climbing positivity rates and other potential restrictions. The so-called “breakthrough” cases among the vaccinated have sparked a good deal of attention, but it is the rapid spread of the virus among the unvaccinated that is driving the surge.
Ballad Health in their daily reports note that most of their COVID cases are unvaccinated.
The unwillingness of too many to forego the vaccine, fueled in some quarters by a politically-driven narrative that equates opting out with a twisted ideal of American freedom, has allowed a virulent version of the coronavirus to thrive. This week, the numbers were up in both Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee. The delta variant still has a dominate presence, driving up infection rates and hospitalizations.
Carter County’s vaccination rate has slowly climbed in recent weeks, but it is still under 40 percent. The vaccination rate in Carter County and Johnson City is among the lowest in Northeast Tennessee and the state. Only 39.9657 percent of Carter Countians have been fully vaccinated. That equates to 20,280 persons. Carter County has a population of 56,392.
The entire Northeast Tennessee area is now classified as having a high community transmission, with health officials strongly recommending wearing masks indoors — regardless of vaccination status.
With flu season here, Northeast Tennessee health department officials are pushing both the flu and COVID vaccines. To head off another resurgence of COVID and an epidemic of the flu, it’s time for the public and private sectors to come together and get serious about making a final push to eradicate the deadly and crippling COVID.
The holiday season is here and there will be more and more indoor gatherings. We would encourage everyone to get the vaccine, which is available not only at the Carter County Health Department, but at most local pharmacies. Booster shots are also available for those who have had their first and second shots.
We realize that the Tennessee Legislature in a recent special session voted against a mask mandate. Gov. Bill Lee, who has been hesitant all along about issuing mask mandates, signed the legislation. We feel that people should have a choice about wearing masks and getting vaccines, but it has become such a political issue, and it should not be. It is a health issue.
Week after week we have printed obituaries of persons who have died of COVID. Yes, COVID can be deadly, especially if you already have medical issues. But, it also kills healthy people.
We have been at this for almost 18 months, and it is high time to stop the spread of the virus. The best way to do that is to get close as we can to herd immunity by increasing vaccination rates. It is sad and troubling how much misinformation is out there, and how readily some politicians have seized on this as a wedge issue in an effort to bolster their own support. It’s selfish on their part.
One critical fact keeps getting lost in this debate: This is a public health crisis, not an individual one. Any solution that is going to be lasting and effective demands a public response — from all the public. It means individuals must put aside their insistence on choice and do what’s right for the broader good. Those who say “I can get sick if I choose” fail to acknowledge that when they get sick, the odds of them getting someone else sick goes up. That logic also ignores the fact that the more coronavirus is allowed to spread, the stronger the variants that will come along.
Decisive measures in March 2020 stopped thousands from dying. At the time, we were confronting an enemy we didn’t know how to stop. We put on masks. We hunkered down.
Now we know how to stop it. Now it’s time to bring this chapter to an end.