Arlene Violet: Is McKee a little like Trump?

By Arlene Violet
Posted 2/5/21

Chances are that most top RI democrats were critical of ex-president Donald Trump‘s repudiation of science when it came to fighting COVID. Governor Gina Raimondo often referenced science as the …

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Arlene Violet: Is McKee a little like Trump?


Chances are that most top RI democrats were critical of ex-president Donald Trump‘s repudiation of science when it came to fighting COVID. Governor Gina Raimondo often referenced science as the lodestar by which she would guide the state’s fight against the pandemic. Enter Daniel McKee. The former small businessman, while possessing a worthy credential, had the same blind spot as tycoon Trump, who sacrificed science to make sure he and his pals didn’t suffer an adverse economic effect. The soon-to-be governor, at least, seemed to avoid a personal cravenness and ultimately yielded to Dr. Alexander-Scott and the state’s pandemic commission’s priorities.

Nonetheless, it is still troubling that his instinct initially and repeatedly was to promote teachers and politicians as next in line to get the vaccine shots. The absurdity of such a position cannot be overstated. The balancing act of pols and teachers vs the elderly pits “economy” in an attenuated sense vs preventing certain death as evidenced by the fact that 98 percent of RI coronavirus deaths were among seniors. His economy argument was exaggerated since many seniors were employed pre-Covid and want to return to work to augment their social security checks. Inoculating them would help the economy.

I was not only annoyed at Mr. McKee’s preemptory dismissal of science but also his disrespect for seniors, however unintentional. A societal attitude seems to prevail that folks who have paid taxes in RI on average for 60-plus years are supposed to go quietly into the sunset, leaving room for the younger members of society. Meanwhile, under his worldview, Mr. McKee and the 60-day-a-year legislators, with zoom conference access, are supposed to trump seniors who would like to live a bit longer to enjoy the twilight years they’ve earned.

Mr. McKee is trying to curry favor with the teachers unions since he burned a bridge when he last showed courage by supporting charter schools. No less than the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a press release on Jan. 25 to reiterate that there was no evidence that opening schools for live attendance had any significant effect on the spread of Coronavirus. This is supported by 2 vigorous studies along with the CDC, all of which call for reopening of schools with one exception: the only variable is the community from which the student comes. If coronavirus is raging there, the school personnel and students will likely become infected. The remedy is to address the pandemic in the city/town, not a global inoculation of people not at risk.

Some other pandering politicians have supported the notion that teachers should be vaccinated first even though they work Sept-June. Those teachers still railed against returning to school, blaming unhealthy buildings and the lack of health protocols. Chicago teachers went on strike precisely for these reasons. They asserted that there is no guarantee as to how long the vaccine works, or if it protects against variant strains so the classroom is too dangerous. Getting them vaccinated ahead of those whose age and prior health conditions put them at a risk of death wouldn’t necessarily open the schools. Some RI schools remain shuttered right now despite the lack of a serious threat.

May the Lt. Governor follow facts — not politics — as he takes the helm.

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

Arlene Violet

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