Arlene Violet: Follow science, not politics

By Arlene Violet
Posted 3/4/21

Let’s cut to the bottom line. First responders, i.e. doctors, nurses, and CNAs were the first to be inoculated with the COVID-19 vaccine because they were the most likely to come in contact …

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Arlene Violet: Follow science, not politics


Let’s cut to the bottom line. First responders, i.e. doctors, nurses, and CNAs were the first to be inoculated with the COVID-19 vaccine because they were the most likely to come in contact with coronavirus patients. They were also most likely to infect those whom they examined, particularly if they were asymptomatic. Enter EMTs, firefighters and police officers. Their very public-intensive jobs brought them into persistent contact with primarily adults and, in the case of EMTs, with seniors who were the population most likely to be infected with severe COVID. Science dictated the priority of their inoculations.

Senior citizens were next in line for inoculation. Studies established the increased likelihood of death or lifelong incapacity of elderly persons who became infected. As part of this group presently being inoculated certain occupations had among its ranks older Americans. Accordingly, teachers, tellers, store employees etc. were in line to secure vaccination because they are in the target group of those most likely to die or be hospitalized.

Who should be next after those 65 years or older or those with 2 or more serious pre-existing conditions are inoculated? Teachers’ union honchos are clamoring for their members, yet for those who are not seniors (who would be inoculated already because of age or health status) their chances of contracting COVID from children are de minimus. Children have a very low viral load even if infected and a massive testing program is in place at Rhode Island schools to minimize exposure.

The next group(s) should be those who are exposed to the public most likely to be infected. It is disheartening, for example, that RIPTA bus drivers who have requested a priority for the last 2 months have not received an answer as to where they are on the list. Generally, even with a limit of 15 passengers, many of whom are elderly and no longer driving or low-income riders from urban areas where the virus counts are high, the driver is exposed to 90 people a shift. Surely, these drivers should be a priority, along with clerks in grocery stores, pharmacies, hairdressers who come in contact with a dozen customers a day, wait staff,etc. Only an elitist attitude would relegate these workers to a lesser rung on the totem pole. Occupations which bring minimum wage workers into necessary but close contact with those most likely to be infected should be next in line.

The initial instinct of Lieutenant Governor, Dan McKee, to prioritize his fellow politicians bespeaks the very attitude that occupationally some people are more important than others even though their risk is low. Those truly at risk would be already inoculated because of age or medical conditions in those professions. Lawyers per se are not more important than the produce delivery driver.

As Gina Raimondo heads to D.C. at least voters should recognize that she followed the science. Being number 1 in testing in the country by necessity unearthed more covid deaths and infections. That’s the reason why then President Donald Trump wanted to reduce testing to protect himself from his incompetence in handling the pandemic. Her standard of reducing hospitalizations as a priority was a correct one even if she looked bad. Her successor would do well to follow science and ditch political gain as the metric.

Arlene Violet is an attorney and former Rhode Island Attorney General.

Arlene Violet

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