The New Jersey Republican state legislators who on Dec. 2 barged onto the floor of the State Assembly chamber, in violation of requirement they show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test, want to lionize their stunt as a blow for individual liberty.
Yet, in reality it’s nothing more than an illustration of their wanton disregard for the health and wellbeing of essential workers like the New Jersey State Troopers they confronted.
Back in October, the New York Times reported that the Officer Down Memorial webpage had accounted for close to 500 police officers who had died over the arc of the pandemic from their workplace exposure to the deadly virus.
“More than four times as many officers have died from Covid-19 as from gunfire in that period,” the New York Times reported. “There is no comprehensive accounting of how many American police officers have been sickened by the virus, but departments across the country have reported large outbreaks in the ranks.”
The reckless actions of these Republican legislators were in lockstep with the way former President Donald Trump wantonly disregarded the health and wellbeing of the hundreds of Secret Service agents and uniformed officers who protected him who he put at risk by pressing ahead with massive public gatherings in the midst of a deadly pandemic.
According to CREW, the Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington, a non-profit watchdog group “nearly 900 Secret Service employees tested positive for COVID 19” with the “vast majority served in protection jobs, either as Special Agents or in the Uniformed Division.”
“Throughout the pandemic, then-President, then-President and Vice President Trump and Pence held large-scale rallies against public health guidelines, and Trump and his family made repeated protected trips to Trump-branded properties which the then-president was making millions of dollars a year from,” CREW reported. “Trump even put on a photo-op in a car with Secret Service agents while being treated for COVID, further putting agents in danger. While there have been reports of Trump’s Secret Service struggling with coronavirus cases, the number is far greater than had previously been known.”
“Never before has the Secret Service run up against a president so intent on putting himself first regardless of the costs, including to those around him,” Ned Price, a national security expert and former CIA analyst, told the Washington Post. “And by maintaining a rigorous travel schedule and otherwise flouting public health guidance, he is demanding that agents add to their already considerable professional risk in ways that are qualitatively different than what they signed up for.”
Throughout the pandemic, millions of essential workers put themselves and their families at risk by leaving their homes to work in our communities. They were not in service to just the vainglorious megalomaniac, who was president. They were in service to all of us. Yet, as a nation we failed to protect them from a pandemic we had been warned about for years.
Consider the fate of 45-year-old Glen Ridge Police Officer Charles Roberts who died in May of 2020 as a result of his occupational exposure to the virus. He left behind his wife Alice and three children.
At that point we had lost 80,684 Americans with just 1.354 million Americans sidelined by the virus. Today, almost two years in, we’re approaching 800,000 dead, close to 50 million infections and losing more than 1,000 people a day.
Truth be told, the United States has no idea how many essential workers were killed by virtue of their occupational exposure to the deadly virus and doesn’t appear to be in too much of a hurry to find out.
Throughout the pandemic, before President Biden took office, unions representing essential workers and workplace safety advocates sounded the alarm about America’s meat processing sector where hundreds upon hundreds of workers died in plants that Trump ordered to stay open as the body count soared and the virus spread.
Even before New York was in lockdown mode, in mid-March of 2020, the New York State Nurses Association warned that the CDC’s emergency guidance that nurses should reuse N95 masks, rather than dispose of them after each clinical encounter, would result in their members catching COVID and dying; and that, in the process, the hospitals where they worked would become vectors for the deadly disease.
Both things happened. According to a joint reporting project produced by the Guardian and Kaiser Health News, over 3,600 healthcare professionals died on the job in the course of the pandemic as of April 2021.
In May of this year, the CDC once again ignored the advice of frontline unions and lifted the universal mask mandate for all vaccinated individuals in indoor settings. Delta surged so badly CDC had to reset mask guidance yet again advising Americans to be guided by local conditions.
Initially, the delta variant tore through states like Alabama, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi and Wyoming, where vaccination rates were lowest. Texas and Florida’s hospitals were sorely tested even as their Republican Governors did all they could to prevent local school districts from mandating masking, despite public health officials warning that delta was hitting children harder than previous variants.
On August 12, the Washington Post reported that “two-thirds of Americans in highly vaccinated counties now live in coronavirus hotspots … as outbreaks of the highly transmissible delta variant — once concentrated in poorly vaccinated pockets — ignite in more populated and immunized areas.”
“How rapidly the state of the pandemic changed in July from a problem for the unvaccinated to a nationwide concern,” the Post wrote. “Hospitalization rates in states with less than 40 percent of their population fully vaccinated are four times higher than states that are at least 54 percent vaccinated,” the newspaper also found.
The Washington Post’s analysis found that breakthrough infections, meaning someone who is vaccinated gets re-infected, did “not appear to be as extremely rare as hoped, accounting for more than a fifth of new recent infections in Los Angeles; New Haven, Conn.; and Oregon, officials said.”
While the media coverage and policy makers focus on the death toll and hospital admissions “dashboard,” what often goes under reported is that a significant percentage of those afflicted even with very mild COVID will suffer long-term health consequences of varying severity.
Even patients that tested positive for COVID, but were asymptomatic, have reported lingering health effects.
Multiple medical studies suggest that anywhere from one-quarter to one third of COVID-19 survivors become so-called “long-haul patients” reporting a range of symptoms including shortness of breath, chest pains, shortness of breath, fatigue and brain fog.”
“Doctors have been estimating one-quarter to one-third of COVID-19 patients become long haulers, as many patients call themselves,” reported the UC Davis Health’s Post-COVID-19 Clinic. “Now, four studies published since February confirm that range. They show that 27 percent to nearly 33 percent of patients who had COVID-19 but did not need to be hospitalized later developed some form of long-haul COVID.”
“Another consistent finding is that it does not appear to matter whether non-hospitalized patients had more severe cases of COVID-19, mild cases or even cases that caused no symptoms at all,” according to the UC Davis website. “Just as consistently, age or prior health – whether people were active and fit or had some previous health issues like diabetes or respiratory problems – made only a very small difference, if any, among non-hospitalized patients.”
And throughout the pandemic, the one through line has been the resistance from so many looking to leverage this once in a century public health crisis for partisan political advantage like what was on display in Trenton last week.
Consider that after such a catastrophic failure to protect America’s essential workforce, that cost so many families so dearly, Republicans across the country and inside the beltway are fighting the Biden administration’s Department of Labor’s OSHA mandate for large employers to require their workers be vaccinated or tested for the deadly virus.
The great resignation should be no mystery.
Why should Americans rush back to work when thanks to GOP obstructionism their government is incapable of doing anything to protect them or their families from a deadly virus.