Why Anti-Vaxers Are Killing the Rest of Us

For the second time in three days, dozens of Anti-Mask, Anti-Vax protestors have disrupted a meeting of a Louisiana public body. Monday protestors created a near melee Monday at the Louisiana House Health & Welfare Committee meeting. Today, Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Second Education (BESE) adjourned abruptly because demonstrators refused to wear masks in a public building, which is contrary to Governor John Bel Edwards’ most recent COVID declaration. 

Governor Edwards proclaimed that the mask mandate extended to schools. Attorney General Jeff Landry, the savvy behind-the-scene puppeteer for the state’s Anti-Mask Caucus, says the responsibility for masking lies with BESE. They in turn are thought to believe that individual districts should make their own choices. 

Today’s unplanned BESE adjournment angered protesters who had crowded the meeting room to make their voices heard regardless of if what they had to say contained an ounce of truth. Many had come from St. Tammany Parish to request the mask mandate be eliminated for their students, faculty and staff.

It’s groups like these that are keeping Louisiana’s COVID rates sky high, causing doctors, nurses and EMS drivers to be overwhelmed. Our health care heroes are ethically bound to find hospital beds for thousands of the state’s citizens “who don’t respect the science,” Overrun with zealots who continue to ignore mask warnings and refuse to get vaccinated, Louisiana has been breaking new infection records daily. 

Though he know it might not be popular in many parts of Louisiana, Governor John Bel Edwards knew that a state-wide mask mandate was crucial to slowing the Delta variant’s spread. As long as the COVID infection rate remains high in Louisiana, our vaccinated citizens are in perpetual jeopardy. Many don’t feel they can’t safety return to work. New businesses are not eager to locate here. Big events that drive the tourism industry are being cancelled by the dozen.   

We all believe in freedom and personal liberty – as long as it doesn’t kill people. But, in this case it is – especially children and young adults whose otherwise well-meaning parents refuse the vaccine for one crazy reason or another.

According to the Louisiana Department of Health, there are 6,606 new cases in Louisiana. During the last seven days 286 coronavirus patients passed away. Almost 12,000 Louisiana residents have died due to COVID since the start of the pandemic. ICU beds are becoming exceedingly scarce across the state.

It would be hard to believe that protesters don’t have at least one family member or close friend who has been diagnosed with COVID. In Louisiana, 89% of current COVID patients are unvaccinated and 80% of COVID deaths in Louisiana between August 5th and August 11th were of unvaccinated individuals. 

This week’s stats point out that Jefferson Parish has experienced the most deaths (980), followed by East Baton Rouge (952), Orleans (847), St. Tammany (582) and Caddo (795). As for vaccinations, Louisiana residents aren’t exactly rushing to get their shots. Only 38.8% are fully vaccinated and 46.8% have received at least one shot. At this rate, it could take six months or more to reach herd immunity. After the Delta variant peaks, how many more Louisiana citizens might become sick or die from a future variant before the misinformation campaign is over?

Yesterday NOLA-PS Superintendent Dr. Henderson Lewis received preliminary approval from an OPBS committee to institute an employee vaccination requirement for NOLA-PS central office staff. Several small charter school groups are also moving in that direction. The full OPSB board will consider the committee recommendation at tomorrow’s meeting. 

It is still hard to believe that the charter school operators that make up NOLA-PS are not calling for remote classes at least until the Delta variant peaks. Children under the age of 12 will remain especially vulnerable until a vaccine is available for their age group. With so many New Orleans children already in quarantine, what smart parent would want to put their kids in harm’s way? That’s the discussion that should be held at tomorrow’s OPSB meeting.

As for the protesters who appeared today at BESE, it’s regrettable that a group of otherwise intelligent citizens would have so little respect for the health and safety of their family, friends and neighbors. By continuing to spew irresponsible, half-truths and unfounded allegations, they undermine public confidence and increase vaccination hesitancy. Their actions will surely lead to more deaths. 

Perhaps only contracting the virus themselves would bring them back to reality.        

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