The Djokovic Decision

The Djokovic Decision


Leonard Zwelling

As I understand the scenario, the world’s number one men’s tennis player had contracted Covid in December and recovered despite having met unmasked with young tennis players and the press when he was probably infectious. Then he traveled to Australia to play in the Open there, but was stopped at the border because he was not vaccinated. He was thrown into quarantine and his lawyers appealed in court. The initial hearing granted him entry, but then the key Australian government minister denied him access to the country again and now he is deported without being allowed to play in the tournament. If he won this tournament, he would have accrued the most Grand Slam titles of any man in history, so this is not a small matter in tennis.

But it is a small matter to most of us who don’t care about how prima donna athletes demand exceptions to good public health rules simply because they, for some reason, believe getting vaccinated will alter their performance on the field. This includes Kyrie Irving of the NBA and Aaron Rodgers of the NFL.

To me this is emblematic of the out-sized role athletes and celebrities play in our public lives. Public health rules are to protect everyone. If everyone does not follow the rules or the good advice from public health officials (like getting vaccinated) everyone suffers. ICUs fill up. Elective surgeries are cancelled. School classrooms close. People die.

I applaud Australia and its government for having more spine than ours does and demanding that every visitor follow the rules or get out of the country. Frankly, this blog has written that we ought to be tolerant of those with opinions about vaccination that differ from those recommended by public health authorities. I am tolerant, but I am not sympathetic and if a sovereign nation like Australia wants to keep the riff-raff out, good for them. Had we done that, we might have been better off. Of course, that assumes that we have sufficient warning and Omicron shows that even with the warning, our reactions were too slow.

For reasons that escape me, vaccination has become a political issue with the right suggesting that it is all about freedom to choose. Well, that’s the problem isn’t it. Many Americans think their responsibility ends at the tip of their own noses and have no concern whatever for their fellow citizens. Thus, like Djokovic, these people on the extreme right (and is it really extreme if over 35% of Americans are still unvaccinated?), are willing to risk their lives and the lives of those with heart attacks who need the ICU bed they are occupying by not having been vaccinated. It’s a damned shame.

As Chuck Todd pointed out on Meet the Press on Sunday, January 16, the rural hospitals have still not seen the Omicron surge coming at them from the coasts. Yet, many of the ICUs in rural America are full now. What will happen when the inevitable influx of new cases comes to these areas which, by the way, have lower vaccination rates than the states on the water and thus are likely to see more illness, more hospitalizations, and more death.

The United States is not out of this yet and will be only if everyone gets vaccinated, the health care workers get a breather, and testing becomes the norm. It took 80 hours for me to get the result of my latest CVS PCR test. Had I been positive (I wasn’t), I would have almost been through my illness by the time I knew I had it. I got the test when I had some congestion and tested negative using an at-home lateral flow test. The PCR is the more accurate and I had to wait five days to get that. I figured that if I got sicker, I would need the PCR, but I got better and, in fact, was diagnosed with a sinus infection. Covid does not preclude contracting other diseases.

I think Australia did a brave and correct thing. Send the diva packing. We’ll see what happens in Paris in June.

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