The ones who have yet to die
By Susan Estrich
In driving down Main Street in Santa Monica on Saturday night, you might think the pandemic is over everywhere, with people drinking and laughing, lines for drinks ... Honest to God, they're partying. There aren't a lot of masks -- it's hard to drink a cold one with a mask.
Just one problem: The pandemic isn't over yet. Some people have yet to die. It could be you, or your grandpa.
So put down the beer for a minute.
State governments, under enormous pressure from big-money donors and declining tax revenue, can't hold the line anymore.
The lines are gone. In New York, theaters are planning to open. Baseball tickets are on sale. The stores are open. Indoor dining is coming.
So, sadly, is sickness and death. The good news is that 80% of those who die are over 65, and a good chunk of them have been vaccinated. But the most vulnerable are the least likely to have been vaccinated. Go figure. There are a dozen different reasons, some of them understandable, all of them wrong.
And those kids having a cold one? They go home to Grandma. They give her a hug. They risk a life of guilt. I can't even think about it.
It gets worse. In many states, such as California, they are vaccinating cocktail waitresses before 64-year-olds with life-threatening illnesses. The restaurant lobby is stronger than the cancer lobby. Depending on where you live, you might die. What qualifies you for a vaccination in New York may not in California.
And excuse me, but since when did state regulators start examining patients and making individual diagnoses? My doctor knows what's wrong with me, not the state of California. If we don't trust doctors to act fairly, if we don't trust them not to sell recommendations to the highest bidders, then we should take their licenses away, pure and simple.
There are sick people who need help. When it comes to vaccinating nine healthy people versus a sick person, I'd rather leave that decision to a doctor who actually talks to the patient; knows how she's doing; notices if she gets every cold that comes around, and if that turns into bronchitis and then pneumonia. Vaccinate that person.
Much as technology has aided in the practice of medicine, it is no substitute for the judgment of a medical professional who sees you, hears you, talks to you, understands you -- who knows that when you say it hurts, it hurts like hell. At a time when such judgment is needed more than ever, we eschew the professionals in favor of failed formulas and crashing websites.
"Call your doctor," I tell a friend who would be considered high-risk in another state and, therefore, able to get the vaccine.
"Pretend you live there," I say, before I take the words back. I'm a lawyer. My job is not to come up with ways to break laws that make no sense in so many individual cases.
I know there will be doctors who will abuse the rules. But I know many more who, given the flexibility to diagnose, would use that freedom to save lives.
And the life they save could be yours.
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