BY GAYLE KIRSCHENBAUM | “The hospital is running out of oxygen. They have to intubate him.”
This was the third call I received.
On the first call, I heard that the man and his wife, a couple I know, were in the hospital. In their 70s, they were not in good health to begin with.
It was the second call that confirmed it was COVID-19. The husband, unfortunately, also had pneumonia. It didn’t have to be like this.
Florida has one of the highest rates of new infections in the U.S. Just in the last two weeks the number has increased by 103 percent.
With the Delta variant running rampant in America, COVID cases are on the rise and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, “it’s a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
Last year, when the pandemic was ravaging the United States and our country was in lockdown, crowds of people were demonstrating that it was un-American to close businesses. I heard over and over about their concern for our economy. “If people can’t work, we will destroy our economy,” they told me as they waved the American flag, representing the country they love and want to protect. It’s the country I love and I’m devastated by what has happened to it.
I was in Florida when the vaccine came out. I, as a senior, my mother, many senior friends and loved ones were vaccinated — with both shots — by the end February. When the vaccine became available to people under 65 years old in March, those friends who qualified didn’t walk, they ran, like we did, to get the needle in their arm.
Then there are the people, many of whom had been protesting last year about businesses being closed due to COVID, who have refused to get vaccinated. They continue to congregate as they protest, fighting against the use of masks in schools and other public places.
If they could buy DeSantis dolls, posters and bronze busts of him, they would. He is their dream governor. DeSantis ruled out mask mandates, in spite of the COVID surge. He refuses to put any restrictions on business and schools.
“We are going to have schools open,” DeSantis said on Aug. 4. “We are protecting every Floridian’s job in this state. We are protecting people’s small businesses. These interventions have failed time and time again throughout this pandemic, not just in the United States.”
And what have his actions led to? His followers parade around maskless and unvaccinated and, one by one, I have seen and heard of members of this group getting COVID. Some recover, some don’t and many spread it. With this behavior, we cannot achieve herd immunity, we cannot end this pandemic, we cannot move around unmasked and safe as we once did.
Business owners are getting sick as are their patrons. Hospitals are once again dealing with an overflowing number of patients and witnessing horrific deaths from the highly contagious Delta variant.
What have DeSantis’s actions, his followers, and those who refuse to be vaccinated done to our economy? The daughter of a 40-year-old vaccinated mother contracted COVID while at school and exposed to many other children. Some of those kids’ folks refused to get vaccinated. Now, this single parent can’t go to work since she is caring for her child. Unless she works, she doesn’t get paid. Now she is pulled out of the workforce and her income has come to a halt.
And what if the mother was an anti-vaxxer and now she caught COVID from her daughter? Not only is there no income but who is going to care for her child? How many stories like this do we need to hear?
When will this stop? What will it take for someone who is an anti-vaxxer and anti-masker to wake up? A death of someone they love?
I hope not.
Kirschenbaum is a filmmaker, TV producer, writer, photographer, coach and speaker. A West Village resident, she spent the last year living in Florida helping her elderly mother.