Get in Line

The other night, one of the cable news hosts asked the question: After hospital workers and long-term residence workers and residents get vaccinated, the next people in line are Essential Workers, as defined by each state – how would you define Essential Workers?

Since then, my phone is going crazy with texts from all the various hospital systems in the neighborhood, asking people not to try to call and make appointments to receive the vaccine until there is enough for everybody. And my mind has been playing with the question: How would I define essential services?

First responders, absolutely. I don’t think anyone would argue with that.

Here’s more of my list:

  • Public transportation workers
  • Home healthcare workers
  • Pharmacists and grocery store workers
  • Medical workers who work outside hospitals and caregivers
  • Grade school and junior high teachers and school workers, starting with those who work with the youngest children, including preschools, and working their way up

I’d also include in these groups:

  • People who live and work in prisons, which have some of the highest numbers and cause community spread in neighboring towns
  • People who work at meatpacking plants and similar places because, again, they have high numbers that cause community spread
  • People who work at PPE manufacturers
  • Physical therapists and people who provide mental health services
  • The armed forces

Who is not on my list?

  • Restaurant workers. I’m sorry, I know you’re suffering, I recognize the devastating hit that the restaurant industry has experienced. But the problem isn’t with the workers at restaurants, the problem is that the diners are the ones spreading the illness, and they won’t be vaccinated until later.
  • People who lead religious services. Same thing, sorry.
  • People who work in grooming services, hairstylists, nail salons, etc. Same thing. Unless you’re working in the mom-and-pop barber shop down the street from me, the one that’s the size of my bathroom and has a single chair, the patrons are the ones that must be vaccinated.
  • Gyms. Gyms are ridiculous right now. The number of gym patrons that I see coming out of gyms without face masks is absurd. Even my husband, life-long gym rat that he has been, is giving up his gym membership after this because he’s just too disgusted with the whole culture. What, you can’t work out in your living room like the rest of us for a year? Get over yourself.
  • Celebrities and rich people. Don’t give me any nonsense about setting an example or being essential to keeping your business running. Go to the back of the line with the rest of us.
  • Politicians who have a) denied coronavirus or said it was no worse than the flu or held 900-person Christmas parties while the people they supposedly serve are suffering; b) voted against financial relief for those who are suffering; c) declared how important it is for everyone to stay home for the holidays, then went to dinner at French Laundry or invited their mother from out of town or flew to Mexico. On my list, you are last in line, behind everyone else, hypocrites!
  • Airlines. Hey, I like to fly as much as anyone, and I know the industry is at risk, but there is too much inessential flying going on right now. Vaccinating the flight attendants and pilots is going to create a false sense of safety that encourages even more inessential flying and makes the population of jerks who refuse to wear masks on flights even more emboldened. You want to inoculate pilots and workers involved in supply chain, fine, but passenger planes, no, I’m sorry.

Here are the ones that I’m unsure of:

  • High school workers. I would say, yes, for the people who work at high schools deserve to be protected. But once they’re inoculated, in-person school will return, and high school students – sorry kids but I have to say it – are dumb. A friend who works with kids told me at the beginning of the pandemic that the two riskiest groups of kids for spreading the infection are toddlers and high school/college kids because they can’t keep their hands off each other. If Covid had hit when I was in high school, I would have been terrible about masking and keeping my distance, and so would every other kid I knew because we were young and thought we were immortal – my friends crossed Deception Pass on the outside of the bridge, they drove drunk, they did dumb things, and so did I. The vaccine hasn’t been approved for kids in this age group yet and, even if they are not in at-risk groups, and even if the school workers are protected, the parents and grandparents and siblings of the students will not be vaccinated in the first wave. The risk is very high. So, maybe not.
  • College campuses. I have all the same concerns about colleges as I do about high schools. But – and this is a big but for me – college campuses are one of the biggest causes of community spread right now. So, for the sake of college towns, I might put them earlier in the line, once we’re past essential workers.

And who is at the back of the list? People like me, people who can afford to stay home, and who are lucky enough to work in white collar jobs that allow them to work from home.

As much as I hate it and miss being in the office with my colleagues, I will suck it up for the good of the country. Other people need this vaccine more than I do.

I can wait my turn.

After writing this, I did what I should have done before writing it and went to the CDC website. The news personality didn’t quite have the question right. Here’s what the CDC actually recommends:

  1. Healthcare personnel
  2. Workers in essential & critical agencies, as defined by the Cybersecurity & Critical Infrastructure Security Agency. When you go and look at the CCISA guidelines, they are pretty detailed, and include some of the groups that I’ve excluded, like high school and colleges, and restaurant workers. Go figure.
  3. People with certain underlying medical conditions (no argument there)
  4. Everyone else, starting with older adults (again, no argument, although I wish the ones that have been acting like high school students during all this could be excluded)

This is why we have experts like the CDC to put things together for us – so we don’t have to think through them ourselves. And because it’s probably a good thing that teams of professionals put things like this together, because otherwise you end up with people like me who are angry with those who don’t express an abundance of caution, letting our emotions overcome common sense.

What are your thoughts on this?

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