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Sultan: Who gets health care if rationing begins?
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Sultan: Who gets health care if rationing begins?

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Pandemic Conference

Jennifer Duffey, right, becomes emotional while speaking about her mother who recently passed from COVID-19 as her daughter Hannah, 14, stands next to her. Dr. Alex Garza hosted a press conference to discuss the rise in COVID-19 cases at Lou Fusz Athletic Training Center in Earth City on Oct. 26.

(Photo by Cheyenne Boone, cboone@post-dispatch.com)

Things are about to get worse.

A lot worse, if you’re the sort who believes what doctors and scientists have to say.

On one hand, that seems a little hard to believe when more than 250,000 people have already died from COVID-19 in America. God only knows how many millions who have recovered will continue to suffer with long-term symptoms. But now Missouri and several other states face the scariest scenario: skyrocketing cases and an overwhelmed health care system.

In this nightmare, people who desperately need medical care can’t get it because there isn’t enough space, staff or resources. We aren’t just talking about COVID patients; if a hospital is at capacity, it can’t take victims of heart attacks, strokes or car accidents, either.

We can’t say we weren’t warned.

How many times does Dr. Alex Garza, incident commander of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, need to cry during press briefings about record-breaking COVID hospitalizations, begging Gov. Mike Parson for help and imploring the rest of us to do the right thing? Parson has been impervious to the cries of doctors, nurses and hospital administrators asking for a statewide mask mandate.

Just this week, a new study from St. Louis University found that the mask mandates in St. Louis and St. Louis County quickly and drastically slowed coronavirus infection rates this summer compared with outlying counties. After 12 weeks, the average daily growth rate of coronavirus cases in these two areas was still 40% lower than in counties without the policy.

But that’s not going to mean a thing to those who believe that the virus is an overblown hoax, covered incessantly by the news media just to affect the Nov. 3 election. Or that doctors and hospitals are fraudulently listing people as COVID patients to “make more money.” Or that this disease is no worse than the flu, that masks are oppressive and ineffective, and that herd immunity is our best option.

These are flat-out dangerous lies, and I’m sorry if you’ve been fooled into believing them.

Of course, people can believe whatever nonsense they want. But how should we respond when beliefs become behavior that threatens the lives and well-being of others? In other areas of public safety, we make laws requiring seat belts and laws against drinking and driving. Sure, some people break these rules anyway, but we don’t abolish laws and rules because of that.

It’s ironic that a self-proclaimed “law and order” governor like Parson doesn’t understand that, when thousands of people are dying in his state.

Health care is a finite resource — except for politicians, of course, who get top-notch care at our expense — and medical workers in some places are having to decide who gets an ICU bed and who doesn’t. The prospect of rationing health care raises some unpleasant questions. Should those who sacrificed and tried their best to follow CDC guidelines be forced to give up health care for themselves, their child, their parent or their spouse just because someone who never wore a mask and carried on with life as usual showed up at the hospital before them?

Well, we don’t have a choice in that situation. Doctors treat whomever shows up, as best they can — whether it’s the drunken driver or the grievously injured child that driver hit.

Health care workers risk their lives to treat patients in Missouri’s rural areas, where far fewer people take the virus seriously and some are openly hostile to masking or any restrictions. We will never know how many doctors and nurses were infected and killed by COVID-deniers whose lives they helped save.

God love those souls trying to protect themselves and others in communities where they are mocked or ostracized for their belief in science.

It’s fascinating that thousands of people were willing to sign waivers releasing the current administration from liability if they caught the coronavirus after attending one of its superspreader campaign rallies.

Would they sign a similar release waiving their right to medical care?

These QAnon Karens and Plandemic Petes could put their money where their mouths are and do just that.

Somehow, I doubt they’re that committed.

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