Letters to the editor

  • by BAR staff
  • Wednesday February 24, 2021
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Letters to the editor

We're here, we're queer, and we're spreading COVID

With the limited availability of the COVID-19 vaccinations, the California Department of Public Health gave first priority to health care workers exposed daily to COVID-19, a commonsense first priority. Then, it blew it, giving priority to the elderly, incarcerated, patients in nursing homes, and others most vulnerable to catching COVID-19 with a high chance of dying from the disease. One vaccination, one person protected; a dangerous waste guaranteed to vastly increase the number of COVID-19 cases statewide.

The CDPH is ignoring the superspreaders, many, if not most, members of the LGBTQ community: the immune suppressed.

Some patients with serious immune suppression may simply contract COVID-19 and die. This should not give them, us, any priority. The state of California will begin to vaccinate a few immune suppressed individuals next month, but only those taking immune-suppressive drugs for hard organ transplants. However, it has been seen that a substantial portion will contract COVID-19 and remain asymptomatic but highly contagious for long periods. The World Health Organization estimated the contagious period could extend three to 18 months. It would be a difficult hypothesis to test, but observations of a woman in Washington state showed her to shed contagious quantities of virus for 70 straight days. Hospitalized with leukemia, she was asymptomatic for COVID-19 the entire time. What if she had been out in public? What if she didn't routinely test for COVID-19 exposure? She could have infected dozens, hundreds, maybe more.

I have had AIDS since being infected during Peace Corps service 1983 to 1985. In 2020, under stress, my immunity collapsed completely. I also contracted Dengue fever, leaving me with Addison's disease, dependent on steroids that limit my ability to produce antibodies. At age 59, the health department tells me I can expect to be vaccinated around six months from now. I haven't been tested in almost three weeks. Am I spreading COVID-19 now? At Safeway? On Muni? If not yet, soon. And there are hundreds of immune suppressed patients in San Francisco, some actively — unknowingly — spreading COVID-19 every day.

One vaccination of a potential superspreader could protect dozens, even hundreds, of people. But that is no one's priority. Not here, not now.

Tom Owen McElroy

San Francisco

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