A Pandemic Rant    

by Orissa Arend

            The other day I was playing tennis with my friend Bertha O’Neal. I count on tennis to be my sanity lifeline against COVID obsession. It’s my circumscribed social life. We talk about grandkids, our mutual love for Bertha’s deceased husband John, what we’re fixing for dinner – stuff like that.

            Tennis focuses all my attention on that little yellow ball and where I want it to go. Unlike easy-going Bertha, I’m extremely competitive. Tennis also makes me so tired in this weather that I have no trouble falling asleep.

            But on August 4 my favorite coping mechanism was out the window, down the drain – choose your metaphor – kaput. You see, the Audubon tennis courts are right next to Children’s Hospital. On an ordinary day we stop and marvel when the occasional helicopter lands on the roof next door to deliver a sick child  – and when the howler monkeys chortle and yelp. We are also right next to the zoo.

Girl sick in the bed

            But on August 4 the helicopter landings were constant. Sick kids were streaming in from the sky and surely from elsewhere. I was whacking that little yellow ball harder and harder in my anger. I didn’t even care where it went. The noise didn’t bother me. Although it certainly bothers the neighbors. But these sick, innocent children – a direct result of irresponsible, unvaccinated adults?! That made me so mad I couldn’t see straight.

            The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that COVID cases in children have jumped 84% in the last week. Local pediatricians Mark Kline and Stephen Hales stated in the Advocate on August 5, “In Louisiana, the Delta variant accounts for about 90% of new COVID-19 infections, and only about 37% of those eligible are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Children’s Hospital New Orleans recently has experienced a surge of pediatric COVID-19 cases unlike anything observed previously. The daily census of children admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 has been as high as 20, with as many as five of those children in our intensive care units at any given time.. . . One child has died.”

            They go on to say, “Sadly, it appears that children are becoming collateral damage of the refusal by many Louisianans to take any of the safe and highly effective COVID-19 vaccines that have been available for months. Children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination, and the rate of vaccination among adolescents 12 or older is just 12%, but there is so much adults could do to insulate and protect children from this pandemic, just by getting vaccinated.”

            My youngest granddaughter Hannah, age 8, just recovered from COVID. No one knows where she got it. I can’t think of a family that has been more careful or more protective of their children. Hannah’s mom and grandmom, both fully vaccinated, got it too. Probably all of these light cases would have gone undetected were it not for my physician son, Hannah’s dad, who believes in testing even for a sniffle.

            That’s how this sneaky, stalker Delta operates. It leaps out to quietly infect. Sometimes people don’t even know they have it, or don’t know until it’s too late. We adults spread it around and then our little lambs who have missed school, missed their friends, worn their masks – they get sick. Children under 12 can’t get vaccinated and can’t advocate for themselves. They depend on us to protect their health and well-being.

            We have safe and effective vaccines to do just that. Apparently there’s no reasoning with some people. But isn’t there a law against reckless endangerment? Or how about if we make one that applies here and now?

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