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Don’t mess with COVID-19, get vaccinated

I just got COVID and I can’t stress enough: Get your shots, mask up and stay safe



(Aug. 23, 2021) — As President of the Washington State Labor Council, I have made it a general rule to segregate my personal life from my duties as a labor leader. Today, I feel compelled to break that rule in the hope that sharing my experience with the COVID-19 Delta variant will help my fellow union members, community allies and all workers avoid this virus. I also hope to persuade you of the merits of availing yourself of the vaccine, and if you have already received your shots, the importance of following the guidance from the CDC and Departments of Health.

On the morning of Tuesday, Aug. 3, I woke up with a sore throat. Since I had been working mainly from home, I gargled with a little warm saltwater and went to my home office. During the day, I kept working and trying to clear my throat but otherwise felt no other symptoms.

I woke up Wednesday morning and felt about the same; a sore throat and then a little cough. I needed to go to WSLC Seattle office to sign some papers. At the office I started feeling some chills and developed a low-grade fever. I knew I needed to go home. When I got home, I got online to schedule a COVID test. Although I had been vaccinated six months earlier, I thought I should test just in case I had one of those so-called “breakthrough” infections.

The Aug. 5 USTR/Labor Roundtable at the Machinists 751 Hall — without me.

In the meantime that week, I was organizing a labor leader roundtable discussion with U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Congresswoman Suzan DelBene. This meeting was scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 5. As we all know, Washington state’s economy has always been heavily impacted by international trade. This was an exciting opportunity for Washington’s union leaders to have direct dialogue with President Biden’s USTR. International trade has traditionally brought both very positive benefits and also very negative impacts. For example, Boeing, at the top of the aerospace business cycle produces nearly 10 percent of America’s export trade and may good manufacturing jobs. The negative impact example for Washington is aluminum manufacturing.  Because of Washington’s abundant hydroelectricity, our state once was home to 9 aluminum smelters. Due to international trade (with China), none of those exist today. I was very excited to lead this international trade discussion on behalf of labor.

Unfortunately on Thursday when I woke up to my morning coffee tasting like hot water, I figured my COVID test would turn up positive, which is exactly what happened the next day. My point of bringing up the USTR/Labor Roundtable meeting is to underscore how vigilant we have to be when we are not feeling well. This isn’t like the old days when some of us (me) would “push through” and go to work because it was just a little cold or whatever. Had I decided to “push through” despite my slight sore throat and cough, I would have faced to horrid prospect of informing the U.S. Trade Representative, Congresswoman DelBene and a room full of labor leaders, that I exposed them all to COVID-19.

Within a day, my symptoms got much worse. On Friday, Aug. 6 I couldn’t really get out of bed. For the next week I couldn’t stay on my feet for more than an hour at a time. I spent about 22 hours a day in bed and mostly sleeping. By the following Friday, Aug. 13, I started feeling much better and had been fever free for a couple days. However, it wasn’t until the following Monday, nearly two weeks later, that I felt well enough to work throughout the day.

I am so thankful my wife and grandson who live with me (and are both vaccinated) did not contract the virus. And although I thought I was being careful, I wasn’t careful enough. I visited an unvaccinated family member’s home who subsequently tested positive for COVID. With this virus, it looks for every opportunity to spread to you and your family.

I am absolutely convinced that my being vaccinated was what kept me from being hospitalized, or worse. Although the vaccine protects against COVID-19 infections to a degree, there is absolutely no question that they are effective in vastly reducing the chances of serious illness, hospitalization and death among those of us who experience these very rare “breakthrough” infections. That’s why the unvaccinated comprise 95 percent or more of the patients hospitalized for COVID right now, both nationally and in Washington state.

Again, the reason I am opening up about my personal COVID experience is to strongly urge you to consider your safety and that of your loved ones and your community by getting the vaccination. Visit Washington state’s Vaccine Locator to find vaccine appointments near you.

And even after you are vaccinated, maintain hyper-vigilance to combat the virus’ spread. Only if all of us do our part — by taking the steps recommended by the CDC and Departments of Health — will we end this dreadful disease.


Larry Brown is President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

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