The battle against COVID-19 can sometimes seem endless, being fought on so many fronts at the same time.

The news is sometimes hopeful and sometimes disappointing, but the fight must go on. We have more than 725,000 reasons — the death toll so far — to keep going.

Here in Frederick, our leaders are looking for the next best steps to take. Sometimes that means taking one step forward, one step back, then trying a new direction.

The Frederick city workforce is about 65 percent fully vaccinated against the virus. The Board of Aldermen is now considering offering some kind of financial incentive to employees who are vaccinated. The aldermen approved an incentive program Thursday night but failed to provide funding for it.

We support a carrot-and-stick approach to push employees to take care of themselves, and more importantly, to protect the community.

Many city employees must have face-to-face interactions with the public in order to do their jobs. For them, there should be no option to remain unvaccinated. However, paying a bonus after an employee gets the shots might be just the nudge they need.

The county is also considering a $1,000 bonus for vaccinated employees, so a similar city bonus would be in line. It may seem like a lot, but giving a bonus to every city employee would likely cost less than the price of a single hospitalization for COVID.

A vaccination bonus is an incentive worth considering for the school system, Frederick Community College and any other level of local government.

Having a fully vaccinated government workforce would go a long way toward defeating the virus. As we do better with vaccinations and learn more about the behavior of the virus, it will enable us to move toward our formerly normal life.

The county school system has been grappling with finding effective policies to protect students and staff. This is not a theoretical exercise: Since the school year began, FCPS has recorded 739 positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff.

In one disappointing development, the system had to cancel a voluntary coronavirus testing program for school staff after just two weeks, due to a lack of participation.

On the other hand, an analysis of data by the staff enabled the system to ease up on quarantine requirements.

The school board voted to lift quarantine requirements for students who were wearing a mask at the time of their exposure, a move that should drastically decrease the number of students who are sent home from school.

In the first two months of a school year, thousands of students have been quarantined at home with minimal access to instruction. But Superintendent Terry Alban told the board only about 2 percent of students sent home due to exposure ended up testing positive for the virus later.

The superintendent and board are correct in concluding that number is too small to justify continuing the policy as it is. The system acted correctly in changing direction based on new information.

The board also voted to require students participating in extracurricular activities to get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing by Dec. 6, when the winter sports season begins.

Students participating in sports, often in very close quarters with coaches and other athletes, still need a greater level of protection, so requiring vaccines makes a lot of sense. A weekly testing option is better than nothing, but parents really should have their children vaccinated as soon as they are eligible at age 12.

The federal government is developing a program to begin vaccinating children from 5 to 11 as soon as the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control give their OK. That should take the country a long way toward the long-sought herd immunity in communities, such as Frederick, where we have fairly high rates of vaccination among eligible residents.

And so it goes, in the war on COVID. We have the best weapon available, with our extremely effective vaccines, but we still struggle with a significant segment of our population who resist joining the fight.

We cannot give up, despite our frustration. We must use every tool at our disposal to push and pull, by carrot and stick if necessary, our neighbors to help us defeat COVID.

(4) comments

artandarchitecture

“It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgement of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).” — Dr Marcia Angell, former Editor in Chief of the NEJM

Reference: Angell M. Drug Companies & Doctors: A Story of Corruption. The New York Review of Books magazine. [Last accessed August 5, 2015]. Available from: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2009/jan/15/drug-companies-doctorsa-story-of-corruption/

anInterestedPerson

All who remain unvaccinated, without a valid medical reason, should have to pay higher medical insurance premiums

Brookhawk

Maryland in general is doing so much better than a lot of other states. We're almost back to normal while my friend in SC had to have surgery on her badly crippled knee put off - and then have it done out patient last month - because of the overwhelmed hospitals there. When I was in Arizona in August, I saw few masks but lots of electronic signs urging people to get vaccinated because their rate was below 50%. And hospitals there were stressed too. Still, the number of people who refused vaccination made me shake my head. I wore a mask the whole time I was there, even though I've been vaccinated. I didn't want a breakthrough infection and tested myself as soon as I got home to be sure I hadn't picked one up. I hadn't.

Dwasserba

“…we still struggle with a significant segment of our population who resist…” and we don’t want to reward them, but if paying them gets it done, by all means, let’s, reserving the right to roll our eyes as we do.

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