The Palm Beach Post
When you think of police officers dying in the line of duty, you probably think of them chasing down a criminal and being shot or getting run over by a getaway car.
But that’s not what’s happening.
When the ‘bad guy’ is a virus
So far this year, 356 law-enforcement officers across the country have died in what have been classified as line-of-duty deaths. But just 49 of them died by gunfire and 16 by vehicles.
These are relatively small numbers compared to the 228 officers who died from COVID-19, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, an online tribute to officers compiled by a nonprofit dedicated to giving the public the chance to “remember the fallen and honor their sacrifices.”
But this year, COVID-19 has turned that mission on its head. For is it really a “sacrifice” to die because you turned down a life-saving vaccination against an airborne-spread illness?
The memorial page notes that the coronavirus is the No. 1 killer of law-enforcement officers this year.
“Getting vaccinated is just as important as wearing your vest and your seat belt,” it says. “Don’t wait any longer, please consult your doctor to see if vaccination is right for you.”
To protect and serve requires a vaccine
And yet, sadly, officers have been hesitant, and it has led to their preventable, premature deaths – and no telling how many other deaths of those they encountered on the job.
The chronologically listed deaths of the officers tell the story.
In January, a month when COVID-19 vaccinations were just becoming available, 54 law-enforcement officers died in the line of duty, with 38 of those deaths due to COVID.
These officers likely died from COVID before they could get the vaccine that would save their lives. Same thing goes with some of the 20 officers who died from COVID in February.
But from March to June, the life-saving effects of the vaccine were becoming apparent in the officer mortality rates. For the first time this year, officers were more likely to die for some other reason than a COVID illness during those four months.
COVID killed a steady six officers per month, accounting for three out of every 10 officer deaths.
Then the more deadly, and easier-spread delta variant of the virus took hold. By July, COVID was the predominant killer of law-enforcement officers again.
And in August and September, it became rare for officers to die of anything else but COVID-19.
The deadliest month of this year, August, had 64 COVID deaths, compared to 13 from all other causes. September’s COVID deaths were 62 out of the 70 total law-enforcement officer deaths.
Where these COVID deaths were happening told another story.
The state of COVID depends on the state
The states with the highest death count of COVID-stricken officers this year are Texas (67), Florida (37) and Georgia (30).
These are states run by governments that continually classified vaccines as a matter of “personal choice,” rather than a public-health obligation.
California, the most populous state, has registered 20 deaths. And New York, with a population slightly less than Florida, had just six.
There was an August week when five officers in South Florida died of COVID. That is similar to the yearly officer death tolls in Pennsylvania (4), Illinois (6) and Michigan (4).
The City of West Palm Beach lost two officers to COVID during the past couple months. The most recent one, Anthony Testa, was just 36 years old.
Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has spent more energy opposing vaccination efforts than promoting them. Florida has taken action to fine Leon County millions of dollars for requiring vaccinations for city workers.
And rather than tout the life-saving role of vaccinations, DeSantis has continually touted post-infection treatments that are less effective, more expensive, harder to administer and in short supply.
To attack COVID by waiting for people to get infected first is to invite unnecessary death and injury.
The medical journal Lancet published a study that quantified the human cost in promoting “personal choice” arguments over sound medical advice.
The study called “Implications of suboptimal COVID-19 vaccination coverage in Florida and Texas” found that “enhanced vaccination” in Florida and Texas would have “markedly blunted the increase in cases, hospital admissions, and deaths.”
The study looked at the vaccination rates in Florida and Texas with those of states that stressed vaccination and achieved higher vaccination rates.
“Collectively, these two states could have averted more than 95,000 hospital admissions and 22,000 deaths had they reached the vaccination coverage achieved by the top five states and continued at the same pace until Aug. 31, 2021,” the study found.
The running death toll of police officers, like the Lancet study, shows the cost of coddling vaccine hesitancy by propping up a self-serving “freedom” argument where sound science belongs.
Frank Cerabino on the spike in the deaths of police officers due to the lack of vaccinations against COVID-19.