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COVID continues its march through the unvaccinated

Still think you don’t need a COVID vaccine? Think again. Or read Rick Fielder’s story in today’s newspaper.

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The 76-year-old Rogue River resident was convinced COVID was no big deal. If he got it, he figured it would be like catching the flu and he’d recover. After all, the man had survived stage 3 cancer and a tractor accident that left him with broken ribs and a punctured lung.

He was wrong. Nothing, he said, compares to COVID.

He got sick around July 6. He was admitted to the hospital July 12, and was released to a nursing home Aug. 2. He went home on Friday. The formerly active man who says people thought he was in his early 60s now faces life with walkers and ramps and visits from home health nurses.

Fielder was luckier than some. He’s alive, and he didn’t have to go on a ventilator.

A story in Friday’s paper described in detail the gruesome reality of COVID patients who do wind up on ventilators. Heavily sedated, their muscles paralyzed by medication, they lie on their stomachs 16 hours a day with their eyelids taped shut, catheters carrying away urine and diarrhea. Their fingers and toes turn black. Their bodies bloat as they fill with fluids.

Many don’t survive this last-ditch attempt to keep them alive. And nearly all of them are unvaccinated.

Hospitals here are overwhelmed, their intensive care units overflowing, their nurses and other staff exhausted and burned out from the workload.

Jackson and Josephine counties are the first in the state to experience this new surge in cases and the corresponding spike in deaths from the highly infectious delta variant of SARS-CoV-2. But they won’t be the last. State health officials say they expect the surge to hit every corner of the state, affecting every hospital.

On Thursday, the state’s hospital and ICU beds were 93% full, with 226 COVID patients in ICU beds.

There has been some finger-pointing as a result of Southern Oregon’s highest-in-the-state numbers of COVID cases. An editorial in The Oregonian last weekend called out Jackson County commissioners by name, suggesting they have “sat on the sidelines” as cases surged.

That’s not entirely fair. Jackson County has been at the forefront of efforts to get vaccine doses into the arms of local residents, helping mount one of the first mass vaccination operations in the state at the Jackson County Expo, and has been actively reaching out to underserved populations to get as many people vaccinated as possible.

Commissioner Rick Dyer told the Mail Tribune Editorial Board that he doubts anything he could say would convince vaccine holdouts to get the shot, but that he urges everyone to talk to their doctor and make their own decision. He may be right that stalwart vaccine resisters won’t be swayed by a local elected official urging them to change their minds.

But the fact remains that the single most powerful weapon we have against this virus is the vaccine. And until more people agree to accept it, the disease will continue to have its way with the unprotected segment of the population. More voices urging more vaccinations can’t hurt.

Don’t like wearing a mask? Neither do we. Don’t want to see businesses shut down again? Neither do we.

Read the stories of those who have experienced the power of this virus and lived to tell about it. Read about the grim reality of those who won’t live to tell about it.

Then get vaccinated, if not for your friends and neighbors, then for yourself.