Summer Community Parades Are Back Despite Pandemic

County Supervisor Lisa Green-Douglass and State Senator Kevin Kinney lead the Johnson County Democrats entry in the Solon Beef Days Parade on July 17, 2021.

Most people along the parade route reacted positively to the Johnson County Democrats entry in the Solon Beef Days Parade on July 17. All over the state, parades have re-emerged as a social activity after missing last summer because of the coronavirus pandemic. While the parade was a positive event reflecting community values and attitudes, it’s clear the pandemic is not over as vaccinations lag behind what is needed.

Nationally, 161 million people are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, representing 48.5 percent of the population. We are about the same percentage in Iowa with a million and a half people, or 49.0 percent of the population, fully vaccinated. The daily rate of vaccination has slowed considerably during parade season.

On Friday, Nick Coltrain of the Des Moines Register reported the majority of hospitalizations for COVID-19 are among people who are not vaccinated:

Almost all of the people hospitalized with COVID-19 since the spring have been unvaccinated against the disease, spokespeople for three of Iowa’s largest health care systems said.

At the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, upward of 90% of patients admitted due to COVID-related illness since April have been unvaccinated, spokesperson Laura Shoemaker told the Des Moines Register. About 95% of patients hospitalized at UnityPoint facilities since March 2021 were not fully vaccinated, spokesperson Macinzie McFarland said. And at MercyOne’s Des Moines hospitals, 97% of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 were not vaccinated, spokesperson Clara Johnson said in an email.

The COVID-19 vaccine has been widely available to anyone 16 and older since April 5.

Iowa City Press Citizen, July 16, 2021

It was fun giving small American flags to children lining the parade route on Saturday. We live for such moments of small joys and happiness. However, the potential for disaster looms in the fall when children are required to return to in-person instruction at schools around the state.

We know the way to avert disaster is to get a higher percentage of the population vaccinated. Yet there is not an approved vaccine for children under age 12, and poor vaccination rates among school-aged children who are eligible. With the combination of low vaccine rates, a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, and a population that clings irrationally to the idea that the COVID-19 vaccine is in some way dangerous or not needed, trouble is fermenting in Iowa.

While enjoying parade season, I hope our actual experience in the fall proves me wrong about new, school-based COVID-19 outbreaks. We have the information to do what is right. Yet as raconteur, philosopher and satirist Ron White said, “You can’t fix stupid.” That’s where we are with half Iowa’s population.

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