This is an opinion piece, based upon information released this week and reports of rising COVID cases in our Tri-City Region.

“This is a disease of the unvaccinated and unfortunately it continues to be spread by ignorance of public health measures or flaunting of public health measures,”

This quote from Dr. Kevin Hodges was reported in the Tri-City Herald this week. Hodges is the state appointed emergency medical director for both Benton and Franklin Counties as well as Yakima and Adams as well. He also works as an ER doctor in our region as well.

He was referring to county and health officials saying there's the increase in COVID cases in our area, which is over-stressing area health care systems.

Reports indicate the three Tri-City area hospitals have had to shuffle patients, sometimes to other facilities, due to stress and overcrowding due in part to COVID cases.

Hodges cautioned against persons utilizing information obtained from social media posts or other non-official medical sources.  His tone reflects a growing wave of increasingly aggressive attempts to persuade citizens to get vaccinated and follow public health guidelines. More and more ads are being seen on social media discounting 'alternative' information sources that don't come from the CDC, the WSDOH (Department of Health) or other state-public origins.

The tone of these ads is seen by some as an example of attempting to pressure people into making health decisions not on their own, but based upon what the 'state' says to do.

Area officials seem to indicate some of the healthcare system pressure comes from the misuse of 9-1-1 and other medical services by persons who have tested positive for COVID but are not showing threatening or dangerous symptoms.  Ben Shearer of the Pasco Fire Department and City of Pasco released a statement about the proper ways to utilize emergency services, and it read in part:

"As our community grows, so does the request for services. In 2021 and, more specifically, the last few months, our personnel report more requests for assistance for COVID-related issues where the patient is not experiencing any symptoms. They are requesting transport to the hospital because they received a Positive COVID test result. Many of these patients are not having any symptoms or issues at that time related to their Positive COVID test. This is taking valuable resources out of service and not available when a more severe call comes in.

Additionally, our data show that about 25% of the time, when one fire station has a call for service, the next emergency request will be in that same station response area. That means while we are dealing with non-emergency calls, we are not available when the heart attack happens down the street. That call must wait for crews from a farther away station, delaying treatment.

We ask our community not to use 911 and the hospital emergency departments as your primary care location."

This  is certainly wise advice which will help already overtaxed systems better deal with serious emergencies.

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However, statements like "this is a disease of the unvaccinated" are often seen as playing the blame game by those who seriously view this as a personal medical decision. Nor does playing the blame game by using such words as "flaunting" public health measures.

Sooner or later, public health and other officials will figure out while it is difficult to get some people to get the vaccine or go along with what they see as questionable policies,  bludgeoning people or attacking and blaming them will only harden their resolve. It's human nature.

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