I Am That 74-Year-Old Grandmother

Yesterday’s ‘Questionable Statements about the Corona Virus’ award goes to Florida’s Governor DeSantis who said this: “If you’re a 22-year-old working in food services, let’s say at a supermarket, you would have preference over a 74-year-old grandmother. I don’t think that that is the direction that we want to go.” DeSantis wants Florida to ignore the CDC and vaccinate the elderly before essential workers.

While most of us are willing to let grandma cut in the line at the movies, get a special ‘priority’ lane at the supermarket, or even get a discount on event tickets, you might be justified in wondering why Gramma, who hasn’t left her house in ten months, needs to be inoculated against the virus before a 22-year-old working in food services. Assuming that the 22-year-old goes home each night to four children and that she interacts throughout the day with customers who engage in questionable behaviors, Governor DeSantis may need to think this through. 

The 22-year-old working in the supermarket very likely must do so in order to feed her children. Possibly she dreads exposing herself every day to all those strangers, but feels that she has to. Those kids at home have to be fed. And speaking of those kids, where have they been while Mom has worked in her risky occupation? There’s a pretty good chance that they, too, have been around other people, some of whom may have been exposed to Covid-19.

Whether the Mom contracts the virus and takes it home to her kids, or one of the kids, though perhaps asymptomatic, exposes the mother, who then exposes co-workers and customers, there’s a pretty good chance of something bad happening here. And if it’s true that one out of every 1,000 people in the country have now had the virus, the chances here are higher than just ‘theoretical but unlikely’.

Now, as for that 74-year-old grandmother that the good governor wants so badly to protect. Unless she’s in a nursing home, chances are good that she has been isolated in her home for the last ten months, with very little exposure to the virus. There’s a good chance that she does not have to go out into the world every day to earn the money for food. If she’s living on social security or other investments, her financial health has probably not changed during the year. 

It’s likely that one of the rare interactions Gramma has had with the outside world has been with a food care worker, hopefully just the one who delivers her groceries to her home or to her car, though in some areas, such services are not available. That food care worker may very well be the 22-year-old who DeSantis feels can wait for her vaccination until all the grammas out there have had theirs. So who, I ask you, is more likely to spread the virus? The 22-year-old who goes to work, interacts with multiple customers and coworkers, goes home to children who have interacted with god-knows-who during the day? Or the 74-year-old gramma who has been holed up in her house, perhaps unhappily, for the year?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I will get the vaccine as soon as it is available to me. And it’s not because of some sort of twisted bow to authority, which I got over a long time ago. It’s because I have the ability – and the time available – to read what the scientists are saying. Of course I want the vaccine! And I will get it as soon as it is available to me. But if my state decides to inoculate the 22-year-old food service worker first, I will understand their logic.

And let me add that I would not want the job of the decision-makers on this one. No matter who gets to go first, a bunch of people will tell them they’re wrong.

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