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Dan Rodricks: Living in the Maryland part of ‘Pamadelginia’ during pandemic increases chances of actually living | COMMENTARY

Jovan Crocker, left, a nurse practitioner with MedStar Health, administers a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to Daniel Boss at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore's Brooklyn neighborhood. Boss got his COVID-19 vaccine at the urging of a friend.
Jovan Crocker, left, a nurse practitioner with MedStar Health, administers a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to Daniel Boss at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore's Brooklyn neighborhood. Boss got his COVID-19 vaccine at the urging of a friend. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun)

Nobody asked me, but, all things considered, Marylanders are more fortunate than we might think. Out of the five states that make up Pamadelginia — that’s a name I just made up for Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia — we are doing best in the COVID-19 battle. Maryland has the lowest test-positivity rate and the highest percentage of fully vaccinated citizens. And, according to a study of the first 18 months of the pandemic, Baltimore outperformed communities with similar demographics in avoiding sickness and death, and getting people vaccinated. Living in a blue, well-educated, science-friendly state is better for your health than living in some red, anti-mask, crazy governor state. So there, and nya-nya.

Nobody asked me, but, while it’s a tired story by now — and a tragic and infuriating one — the fact that so many Americans refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19 still astounds me. We’ve been getting inoculated against diseases all of our lives, but now, in a lingering crisis, millions still have a problem with the needle? You might assume that the unvaccinated have some paranoid or political drama swirling in their heads and, as a result, can’t think about others; they can’t see vaccination as serving the greater good. OK. But whatever happened to the human instinct for self preservation? That part I’ll never get.

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And nobody asked me about this, either, but whatever happened to respect for medical expertise? I recently heard from some readers who boldly dismiss what we’re told about COVID-19 vaccines by infectious disease experts at Johns Hopkins Hospital. And yet, these same people, faced with a cancer diagnosis, would in a minute dash to that institution for expert treatment and care.

Somebody asked me to give the subject of Ivermectin due diligence. It was a Maryland veterinarian who thought I too casually dismissed the livestock dewormer as an effective treatment for COVID-19. So I looked into it further, and what I found is pretty straightforward: Studies from earlier in the year that claimed Ivermectin was effective were flawed. The Food and Drug Administration says it should not be taken by humans, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says there is “no evidence whatsoever that that works and it could potentially have toxicity with people.” There you go.

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Nobody asked me, but I think the use of Ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment reflects a couple of things. First, it shows how hard it is to get people to forget statements and studies that are subsequently retracted. (Much of the modern anti-vaccination movement stems from a deeply flawed study published in Lancet, the British medical journal, in 1998 and retracted 12 years later.) Secondly, the Ivermectin craze results, in part, from people believing they’ve discovered something that mainstream science missed. Paul Auwaeter, clinical director in infectious diseases at Hopkins, addressed this in an email the other day. “Unfortunately,” he wrote, “many in the U.S. like to make their own ‘informed’ decisions about their health. Often, this is a result of their internet detective work, which is self-empowering and helps foster a sense that the individual is in control of their lives in our often chaotic, challenging world. This is a likely reason alternative medications and supplements are a bonanza industry in the U.S.”

Nobody asked me, but, if he’s still not vaccinated, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson might be thinking that natural immunity, from the antibodies to the coronavirus, will protect him from a third infection. They obviously didn’t keep him from getting a second infection, so why trust that he won’t get sacked again? And if he has been vaccinated, why keep that news to himself? Like it or not, Jackson could influence others to get the shots. No. 8 needs to accept that responsibility. It’s called growing up.

Nobody asked me, but few things seem more anachronistic — that is, belonging to a time gone by — than a fishing tournament where someone wins thousands of dollars for killing a massive and beautiful blue marlin. This year’s victim at Ocean City weighed 1,135 pounds, and the Florida boat that took the great fish won more than $500,000. Yes, fishing for billfish is highly regulated, and filets from the tournament go to food banks. (Eaten any blue marlin lately?) But I find the big kill for money grotesque, a macho “sport” that hearkens to a time before nearly 8 billion of us stressed the oceans and threatened its fisheries.

Nobody asked me, but baseball is still the greatest sport. Even in a miserable season like the present one here in Baltimore, baseball produces drama and a kind of crazy randomness — or maybe it’s random craziness — within the strict rules of the game. It’s as if there are baseball gods who get to mess with us. Example: Wednesday night at Camden Yards, the Orioles scored zero runs over seven innings — another grim run of dormant bats — while allowing the Kansas City Royals to score five. Then, suddenly, like the dawn barrage at the Somme, the Birds scored nine runs in the eighth to win the game. Fewer than 5,000 fans were there to see it, and I can’t imagine that many more tuned in. Which all goes to show: You have to suffer through the boring and the miserable to get to the good stuff. Which is why baseball is like organized religion.

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