When Covid first hit, a European politician framed the issue in a clear headed way.
Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said that the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic would be a “tsunami” and “there are no buoys that can save us from a tsunami.” In the face of a massive wall of water, half measures are meaningless.
It would be unfair to blame the New Hampshire public health system. Despite massive challenges, our hospitals and clinics are adapting and doing what they can in the face of soaring cases. DHHS with limited funds and contradictory political guidance, has done the best they can under impossible circumstances.
Much of the blame falls on political leaders who spent the long summer pushing extremist bills that limited the ability of towns and schools to react to the pandemic. Instead of opening vaccine clinics, working to reach the unvaccinated, to help schools get kids vaccinated, and to put in place an infrastructure and outreach to track the inevitable spike they rejected federal funds and talked about an octopus in the vaccine.
Certainly, many public health experts were waiting for a variant of Delta to emerge, and not a completely new strain. But, with the lowest vaccination rate in New England, and with little social distancing and masking - New Hampshire has long been on the path to disaster. Not enough people took the pandemic seriously, and just wanted to go back in time.
While the state poured money into ineffective PSA campaigns, vaccination rates stagnated. The governor wallowed in the middle by joining partisan lawsuits against vaccine mandates, doing little to help NH companies cope with the need to vaccinate, and saying that vacation was a “choice.”
Amid the hyperbole and outrageous statements that seemed to dominate the last legislative session, came contradictions and outright lies. By the time the snow fell the state was left with large pockets of unvaccinated people, an ineffective privatized system of vaccinations, a shortage of testing, and overflowing ICUs serving the unvaccinated. An ongoing healthcare staffing shortage was exacerbated, and while partisans blamed the vaccine mandate, the real problem turned out to be burn out fatigue...So, where do we go from this tragedy?
Well, the first step is to strive to decouple COVID and vaccines from the politics.
Next, there has to be an evidence based effort to get the unvaccinated to change their minds, and part of that may be what has worked in other places-limiting their access to non-essential places for their own protection.
Then, we need to focus on children, getting testing to all schools, helping with vaccine clinics, and supporting working families who have been hardest hit by the pandemic.
Covid is the real enemy, it has taken 800,000 lives in the US. We have to start acting like we are fighting Covid, and not each other. This is a tsunami, and half measures, political posturing and lies will have deadly costs. First, it will slow our ability to move forward and recover economically, and second, it will have cost measured in human lives.