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CARROLL: Doctor says the virus doesn’t care about your politics
David Carroll
David Carroll is a news anchor for WRCB in Chattanooga, Tenn.

As we approach the two-year mark of COVID, I sense a lot of confusion. 

I see two worlds in my own zip code. There’s one in which churchgoers are masked, cautious, and separated. In the other, restaurant patrons are partying like it’s 1999.

I’m in the first category. My workplace has been hit hard, and I’m trying to stay on my feet.

I play the odds. When doctors tell me to get vaccinated and boosted because those who don’t are more likely to get seriously ill, I listen.

I’m not a gambler. Some family members took me to a casino 30 years ago in Atlantic City. 

I walked in, dropped one quarter in the slot, and the machine spat out $150. I took the cash and left the casino. 

“Where are you going?” my family asked. 

“I’m done,” I said. 

I beat the odds. No need to push my luck again.

Recently a friend of mine gambled and lost. He was a young man who left a grieving family behind. I sent a message to his father, offering to help in any way. He responded, “Tell people to get vaccinated. My son was an anti-vaxxer.” I later learned he didn’t take it seriously, and waited too late to seek help.

Throughout the pandemic, a family physician has been quite vocal. His name is Christopher Haddock. He tries to counter the constant spread of false information. He has practiced for 20 years in his north Georgia hometown. The region has one of the nation’s lowest vaccination rates. Some of the area’s elected officials have loudly denounced vaccines, and ridiculed those who take the virus seriously.

Although some have advised Dr. Haddock to ignore COVID deniers, he says he cannot sit by silently. He admits that the nation’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has had to backtrack at times, but says, “Science doesn’t sit still. He and other medical experts have issued guidance based on the best information available at the time.”

He adds, “The fact is most people that get COVID are going to recover no matter what any physician does, vaccinated or not. However, a smaller subset of patients, around 5-8%,will develop moderate/severe COVID with respiratory issues and require higher levels of care. Our current case fatality rate in the U.S. is 1.2%. That means 12 of every 1000 people who get diagnosed with COVID will die.”

He continues, “That’s where it becomes a problem. When you apply these relatively small percentages to the millions of people diagnosed, you see where millions are going to get seriously ill, and we are now approaching one million deaths.

I asked, “What about those who complain that their family is fully vaccinated, and they got sick anyway? And the vaccinated people who have died?”

Dr. Haddock replied, “The vaccine doesn’t prevent you from getting the virus. That was never its intention. But it does decrease your chances of developing severe COVID and possibly dying by 95%. So a family can say we didn’t get the vaccine, we all got COVID, and we’re still here. That doesn’t mean no one should get the vaccine. We know that eventually if enough people in that extended family get COVID, some could get severely ill and some may die. Our hospitals are showing 85 to 95% of patients in the ICU and on a ventilator are not vaccinated.”

I also asked about masks. It is not uncommon for people wearing masks to be the target of insults.

Dr. Haddock said, “The masks are not perfect. They will not protect you and those around you 100% of the time. However, they decrease the spread of COVID and other respiratory viruses. They save lives. Yes, they’re a pain. However, they impede transmission of the virus, and decrease the number of cases we are treating.”

Dr. Haddock also addressed the gorilla in the room. He said, “This virus doesn’t care about your politics. The vaccine was developed during the Trump administration, Trump is vaccinated, and he supports the vaccine.” 

(Political leaders from both parties have been vaccinated and boosted, and encourage others to follow suit. The same can be said for some influential TV hosts.)

He added, “I want to encourage vaccination, and masking where appropriate. In our region, we’ve finally gotten above the 50% vaccination rate. I’m hopeful that with increasing vaccination rates, and those with natural immunity, we may eventually get to some sort of herd immunity.”

Dr. Haddock concluded, “The stories of ardent anti-vaxxers getting sick and dying of COVID are numerous. The singer Meat Loaf died, and he was anti-vaxx. A Washington state trooper who resigned rather than be vaccinated has died. These are tragic and preventable. It breaks my heart to see people die for these beliefs.”

David Carroll is a Chattanooga TV news anchor. You may contact him at 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405, or at