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MONIQUE BATSON — When it comes to COVID vaccines, plug into science instead of social media

I’m scared.

I’m just going to jump right out and admit it.

But as one of my favorite characters in one of my favorite TV shows once said, “If you’re not scared, you’re not paying attention.”

On Wednesday, the Port Arthur Health Department announced 41 new COVID-19 cases in Mid and South counties. That same day, the Beaumont Health Department identified 130 new cases.

That’s 171 new COVID cases in Jefferson County in just one day. The total for Monday through Wednesday is 509.

“We are on track to surpass our peak from 2020,” Angie Hebert, vice president of communications for the Medical Center of Southeast Texas, told Port Arthur Newsmedia this week. “We will more than likely surpass that number in a four-week span than a four-month span like 2020.”

But what’s more alarming, particularly to parents such as myself, is that children are being affected more-so than last year. Looking at the daily totals from both health departments show a large amount — if not the majority — of daily cases are occurring in those ages 0 to 20.

There have been a lot of questions regarding the current spike, especially since vaccines are now available to people 12 and older at no cost and essentially no wait. Approximately 40 percent of people 12 and older in Jefferson County have been fully vaccinated, according to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.

But 40 percent simply isn’t enough.

And I’m not speaking to you as a member of the media. I’m not speaking as someone with a hidden agenda. I’m not spreading political propaganda as a fear tactic.

I’m speaking as a 40-year-old mother who contracted the virus in January.

For two weeks, I could barely leave my bed. Just getting up to walk to the kitchen would take every ounce of energy I had and often required a break mid-way. I’d sit on the floor in the hallway or stop at a couch to rest. I was on seven medications, including two different breathing treatments. And still, seven months and a full round of vaccines later, I suffer from fatigue, brain fog, breathing problems and other lasting effects.

Vaccinated people are 82 percent less likely to contract the Delta variant, 92 percent less likely to be hospitalized and 99 percent less likely to die.

We don’t know how long the vaccines will continue to provide antibodies, or if those who are vaccinated are developing immunities against it. We don’t know what the long-lasting effects of the vaccine are. But we do know what the immediate risk of not having one is, and I don’t understand why people are willing to gamble their life on “what if” scenarios.

After being shut in our homes for a year, there was a glimmer of hope. But we will lose it quickly if people do not get vaccinated. Every public and healthcare official in the county has made that plea.

Unlike 2020, businesses can’t be forced to close due to executive orders issued by the governor. But already we’ve seen several restaurants, daycares and even government offices temporarily close because of an outbreak among employees.

Public schools can’t force children to wear masks, although parents can request their children do so. But who will enforce it? I can’t get my kids to pick up the socks on their floor. Do you think they’re going to voluntarily wear a mask when no one else is because Mom said please?

Now is the time to listen to science instead of your mother’s cousin on Facebook that clearly has a tin foil hat in her closet.

No one is trying to take away your rights.

But death will.

Monique Batson is the Port Arthur Newsmedia editor and can be reached at monique.batson@panews.com.