Thoughts on Louisiana’s Heartache | Anna Zeigler

As I write, Louisiana, my beloved home state, is in the middle of yet another bad COVID stretch. What is different about this current rash of cases and hospitalizations is many of them were avoidable, particularly the hospitalizations. Louisiana’s vaccination rate is alarmingly low. I find myself frustrated on many levels. Is it frustrating many don’t see a need to be vaccinated? Yes, it is. It is also frustrating to watch our leaders flounder day after day, repeating the same things, urging (or mandating) the same practices that have failed to make a dent in our COVID numbers in the past. I see little to no effort from our leaders to address the concerns of the unvaccinated.

I decided to give it a go. Am I more persuasive than John Bel Edwards, the man who tanked our state’s perpetually struggling economy with needless lockdowns and is obsessed with masking? Maybe I am. I covet a few minutes of your time. 

When I started graduate school, I learned two of the required courses were Quantitative Research and Qualitative Research. I died a little inside. I knew what quantitative means (moan). I didn’t fully realize until I took the course what qualitative research entails, and I was pleasantly surprised by the course. It’s all the stuff in the world that’s not numbers. It is stories, basically, testimony. It is research that cannot be quantified. Some people are numbers people; I am not one of these people. I understand and respect the power of a good story, understanding that it isn’t necessarily widely representative. I am going to share my COVID story. 

I had COVID late last September. My husband gave it to me. There were of course no vaccines at this time. He felt bad for a few days, briefly lost his sense of taste, but handled it pretty well. I didn’t handle it as well. Admittedly I didn’t go to the doctor as soon as I should have. I knew I had it after my husband’s positive test and my waning sense of taste, and I didn’t want the state of Louisiana calling me once my positive test was registered. I had terrible body aches for several days, was exhausted, and returned to the doctor several times as he requested so he could listen to my lungs. I got several steroid shots, and I used the nebulizer quite a bit. I never ran fever (I almost never do), never even coughed much, and never felt I needed further intervention, but it was a very unpleasant two to three weeks.

I am getting my first Moderna shot today because I don’t know how long the natural immunity I have will last. It has now been ten months since I had COVID. I do believe surviving COVID provides incredible immunity against future infections, including variants, but there is no way of knowing how long that lasts. I think the refusal of the CDC and others to openly discuss natural immunity is one of many in a string of failures on their part. If you are frustrated with the government, with the CDC, with every last thing having to do with COVID, I am your girl. I fully understand and sympathize with objections to the COVID vaccines. I will address some of them here. I do not think vaccines should be mandatory, and the idea of vaccine passports is ridiculous and Orwellian. The attempts to segregate society along vaccination lines are un-American. I do think vaccination is crucial for people who have yet to encounter this virus and advisable for all adults who are medically able to be vaccinated. I do believe most every adult will face this virus at some point either via an infection or a vaccine, or, as we’ve seen, possibly both. 

I don’t think masks help at all. They never did. They should not be mandated. You’re free to wear one if you want. I think vaccines help tremendously. As I said, they should not be mandated. I understand the hesitancy. The vaccine messaging has been atrocious, but the raw hospitalization numbers of the unvaccinated should be enough to encourage more vaccinations. You may get vaccinated and still get the virus. The goal is to avoid the hospital and live. That is the goal. I do believe vaccines prepare your body to recognize this virus, any variant of it, should you encounter it. My body was totally unprepared last September; the virus was hard on me, and I am in no particular risk category.

There is a pall of sadness and frustration over everything, and I hate it, especially for kids. We are frustrated because we are still dealing with this. The politicization of all this has been terrible; it has convinced some people the virus is no big deal, and it has convinced others the virus should dictate every moment of our lives. Neither of these views are healthy. I think both of these things are true: the virus can potentially be very serious even for young, healthy people, and there are nefarious folks in power who have seized on this pandemic as an opportunity to try and accomplish political and societal goals they desire. There has been a major economic shift as small businesses closed for good and the giants got bigger and richer. We will feel the impact of this for years and years. Don’t scoff at people who claim people are taking advantage of this virus; they absolutely are. This doesn’t mean the virus isn’t real or potentially dangerous, but at all times the government should be viewed suspiciously at best. It is deeply disturbing to see people in my home state beg our Governor to mandate mask wearing. It is deeply disturbing to see people beg the government to shutter the businesses of other people.

I don’t think my Governor, Governor Edwards, is a bad actor in the way I think many at the federal level are bad actors; I think he is just inept at his job and wants to appear to be “doing something,” so he is circling back around to the absurd masks.

A lot of crazy information is out there. Many of the people encouraging you to be vaccinated have given you every reason to mistrust them. It is becoming increasingly clear the virus itself was an accidental lab leak and is a man-made virus, so whether it’s the vaccine or the virus itself, at some point you’ll likely encounter one or the other, and I don’t think either is a product of nature. 

My daughter, a type 1 diabetic, pumps man-made insulin every minute of every day; do I have issues with the money involved in all this? Yes, I do, but that doesn’t prevent us from using the drug because it is vital to her health. You can have issues with Big Pharma. You can have issues with Fauci (and you should because he’s a terrible person who is reveling in his celebrity and has lied to Congress about his involvement in the Wuhan Lab). You can think many politicians are hypocrites who flaunt the rules (they are and they do). You can cite the ridiculous situation at the border and the fact that, as Senator Bill Cassidy recently highlighted, undocumented, unvaccinated people are being dropped in towns all over the state of Louisiana. Is this frustrating? Yes. Don’t use it as a reason to dismiss COVID as no big deal because the government would close the border if they were worried.  Here is the truth: The virus is real, and it can impact even the young and healthy adversely, and it’s on the march in Louisiana right now. The government does not care enough about consistent messaging or your life to close the border; that is the harsh truth.

I do care about your life. I won’t make one cent if you’re vaccinated. I want more people to be vaccinated because it is demoralizing to hear daily about someone else I know or someone else who is a close friend or relative of someone I know who is miserably sick or dying because of COVID. In January, I wrote about Congressman-elect Luke Letlow who died of COVID in December of last year a few weeks before vaccines were available. I am not your Governor. I am not part of the pharmaceutical industry. I am a lifelong Louisiana resident who is heartsick over the ravages of this virus. I had it; it was, for me, more than the sniffles. I lost Luke, a friend I’d known for years, a young husband and father whose future was so incredibly bright, to this virus. Let’s utilize the one thing we have at our disposal that has been shown to reduce hospitalizations and deaths. It’s not lockdowns, and it’s not masks; it is vaccines. 

Many things can be true, but none of it changes that this virus is still very much seeking a host, and if you have yet to have any exposure to it either via an infection or a vaccine, you are the most vulnerable right now. I hope we eventually get answers about Fauci’s research in Wuhan. I hope we elect a better Governor in Louisiana in 2023. All of the frustrations we feel are valid, but none of them change the immediacy of a virus that seeks hosts in which to replicate.

Follow Anna Zeigler (@ajzeigler) on Twitter.

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