EDITORIAL: A Grubby Fingerprint

Back in the early years of the twentieth century the European military powers began to engage in a major arms race.

That race would wind its way all the way up to the opening shots of World War I.

Germany in particular saw its army and navy expand rapidly in the first years of the century.  There was considerable envy in Germany's power structure at the global expanse and influence of the British Empire.

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The arming was, of course, noted in London. But the response to it wasn't given much credit by some critics.

There was, at the time, a cartoon that caused quite a stir. It depicted a Colonel Blimp-type character who is seen shining a newly designed army uniform silver button.

The line in the cartoon was a zinger. The character shining the buttons was stating that the continental armies would be shocked, shocked!, at this decisive move.

The point of course was that the powers controlling the fate of the empire hadn't a clue what was going on in the big bad world, and were focusing on the minor when the major was about to crash down on their witless heads from the heavens.

Well, substitute Colonel Blimp for the majority justices on the U.S. Supreme Court.

They were shining buttons last week as the ranks of those dying from Covid-19 expanded like that German army of yore.

The court, in a 6-3 ruling, supported appeals against efforts by the Biden administration to mandate vaccines and/or testing for larger sized businesses. The court, in a 5-4 ruling, did allow for mandatory vaccination of healthcare workers at facilities that receive federal funding and are treating often older Americans on Medicare and Medicaid. Which means that four of the justices opposed even this sensible initiative.

Sure, there were any number of legal rabbit holes for the majority justices to dive into while coming up with a primary ruling that will hardly help in the battle to keep Covid at bay and reduce the number of deaths.

One certain effect of the majority ruling is that fewer people will be vaccinated and more of these unvaccinated will fill beds in ICUs around the country.

And having to face into this appalling vista are healthcare workers in hospitals, and those under siege ICU's.

Prior to the ruling against mandatory vaccinations, the Washington Post came out with a story that included a quote from one hospital CEO to the effect that the rising number of Covid Omicron-related admissions, aligned with staff shortages, could end up making more of his hospital's workers sick.

This guy wasn't shining buttons.

Stated the Post report: "Many hospitals are reporting record surges of Covid cases even as staff shortages hit their highest levels nationally during the pandemic, according to federal health data - a one-two punch that is forcing hospitals to turn away ambulances, cancel procedures and warn would-be patients to stay away because they can’t promise prompt care.

"While most hospitalized patients are adults, the number of pediatric covid inpatients has doubled since Christmas to a seven-day average of 3,800 children.

"But the emerging picture varies dramatically from one region to the next, according to interviews with hospital leaders and health workers across 18 states. It ranges from omicron epicenters such as New York City, where many patients aren’t aware they’re infected until testing positive while visiting the hospital for other procedures, to Michigan and Minnesota, where health workers continue to treat patients fighting for survival against the more severe delta variant.

"Around the nation, front-line workers said the surge of cases and hospitalizations — coupled with the continued frustration of treating patients who refuse to get vaccinated or who berate health workers for encouraging them to take protections — has left the system vulnerable to the omicron wave, particularly because the delta variant never really left.

"The fragile situation has prompted dozens of health-care organizations to take out full-page newspaper ads in Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin begging residents to get vaccinated, wear masks and take other precautions to avoid contracting Covid."

They might have begged the Supreme Court majority while they were at it. But that would probably have merely interrupted the judicial version of button polishing.

Of course, companies are still free to require employees to get vaccinated. The court rejected mandatory vaccination, but that does not mean mandatory non-vaccination. Citizens remain free to be smart, or to be foolish.

Unfortunately, that freedom to choose, in this instance, is unlikely to improve things much. The number of unvaccinated Americans is shockingly high and latest studies predict that the number of Americans who will lose life due to Covid-19 will surpass one million souls by spring or early summer.

The cause of death will be Covid, or complications arising from it. But there are other factors in play, not least the insane politicization of vaccination.

We always look for silver linings in the worst of times. It's hard to find one right now, hard to find even a shiny silver button. That's because it has a grubby Supreme Court fingerprint on it.