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'We Are Battling With One Another ... '

Susan Estrich on

"We are battling with one another," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky told a conference last week, "and not battling with the common foe, which is the virus itself."

Who would have thought the virus would be easier to beat?

What in God's name are we fighting about?

Barely half of the United States population is fully vaccinated. Six months after I stood in line for 90 minutes, literally thanking God and my Twitter-following daughter for finding me an appointment, rolling up my sleeve, I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. To be liberated from the threat of death, from the even-greater fear of infecting someone I love, was I aware that I might have a sore arm and a reaction for a day or two?

In exchange for not dying? In exchange for not infecting someone in the community? A sore arm?

I got my booster shot last month, because I am immunocompromised (rheumatoid arthritis). No line. No wait. I got an appointment -- not just the same day, but the same hour. I walked three blocks. Rolled up my shirt. Began explaining about the arthritis and the woman waved me off. What did I want? Pfizer, Moderna, J&J? Counting the time I sat and read a magazine, I was in and out in about 20 minutes.

Around the world, people are still standing in line.

What is wrong with us?

Walensky cannot predict how long it will be before the pandemic ends because it is not a scientific question to be solved by the scientific method. "We have a lot of the science right now; we have vaccines. What we can't really predict is human behavior. And human behavior in this pandemic hasn't served us very well."

 

Look to your left. Look to your right. Look in the mirror.

The problem -- and the solution -- is looking at you.

But that, of course, is not strictly true. At my local farmers market on Sunday, the little kids and the workers were about the only ones wearing masks. When a visitor pointed this out, I gave her a mini-lesson on geography. We were in Brentwood. Only a stone's throw from OJ Simpson's old house. Vaccination rate? North of 90% would be my guess, and the only reason it would be that low is if some of the workers weren't fully vaccinated. Now get on the train going east (of course, you will have to drive to get to the train stop, which is still too close for some folks) and the vaccination rate will fall as you travel across the city. But even so: We have mandates in California, which is part of the reason we have among the lowest COVID-19 rates in the country.

But we also have unions. And this part I don't understand. It wasn't so long ago that the unions were arguing for greater protection for the health and safety of workers. And that meant, and continues to mean, not an open market where everyone is "free" to work 20-hour days in unsafe conditions for minimal pay, but a regulated market where government works hand in hand with unions to protect workers.

So, help me understand why all these public employee unions -- whose workers, in risking their lives, are risking the public's as well -- are fighting mandates. I can see fighting for time off to recover from the short-term side effects of the vaccine. But a right to work in a dangerous environment? That's the argument that used to be trotted out to support child labor. Is that really what organized labor stands for?

Mis-liberty, I call it. In Texas, you have the right to risk your life and the lives of others -- but not the right to control your own body, to decide whether to bear a child, even if it is the child of a man who raped you. Whose liberty, after all.

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To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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